Natural History

This collection illuminates our changing view of the world.

This collection reveals how people have expressed their wonder at nature in print, manuscript, pen drawings and watercolours. Here the emphasis lies on the period 1500 to 1900, a timespan during which science and art developed increasingly rapidly. Humankind’s view of the world was renewed. This collection magnificently illuminates these changing ideas.


The core of the collection consists of the former library of Natura Artis Magistra (Nature is the master of art), the Amsterdam society founded in 1838 and better known as Artis. The collection passed into the possession of the University of Amsterdam in 1939 and is still housed in the purpose-built library.

Drawing in de Gessner-Platter albums

The old collection of the Amsterdam Hortus Botanicus also forms part of the University of Amsterdam’s rich possessions in natural history. The collection thus covers all the fields of natural history: zoology, botany, geology and palaeontology. Modern subjects like ecology and nature conservation have now been added.

Moninckx Atlas

The collections contain outstanding items, such as albums with animal water colours that were intended as examples for the works of Conrad Gessner (1516-1565); the hand-coloured books of Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) on the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into the butterfly; the Moninckx Atlas with 425 water colours of plants in the Amsterdam hortus, drawn between 1687 and 1750; the bird books of John Gould (1804-1881); letters from Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and a collection of approximately 60,000 illustrations of animals drawn between 1500 and 1900: the Iconographia Zoologica Many of these works are available digitally and so are accessible to the entire world, irrespective of time or place. Nevertheless, use of the original material for research and teaching purposes is definitely possible.


Detail from the Moninckx Atlas

Collection Specialist

drs. Hans Mulder
Phone number: 020-525 58 98
UvA staff page:
Hans Mulder