Wirsing clearly took considerable care over the engraving of the plates, but it is the hand-coloring (which was probably carried out in Sepp's establishment in Amsterdam) that lifts this work into a realm where each plate is an abstract work of art. Marble in the 18th century was used to describe any polished stone, so the 500 cross-sections shown here cover a much wider geological range than the the titles appear to suggest. The samples are carefully grouped into 12 geographical regions and the plates in total offer a visual record similar to the trays of actual samples to be seen by a privileged few in one of the great Wunderkammers of the day. This copy is without the section title and 9 of the 21 plates in the last section on Italy, and also the 6 supplementary plates, which were issued without text.
The work is strictly complete with 100 plates and a frontispiece (according to Landwehr). It was issued periodically in ten parts including a supplemental part containing 6 plates, but is so rare that THE PRESENT EXAMPLE WITH 85 PLATES IS AMONG THE MOST COMPLETE: there is only one other record of a copy of this edition having sold at auction in the past thirty five years. A remarkable and remarkably modern illustrated book.
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