Aap, Vis, Boek is above all a book about books. To be precise: eighteenth-century biology books. It sets out the life and work of the Swedish doctor, botanist and zoologist Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné, 1707-1778), a man who spent his entire life wrestling with the problem of classifying the world’s flora and fauna. Humans are really a species of ape, he believed. Another nice aspect – from the Dutch point of view – is that the place where Linnaeus’s star began to rise was Amsterdam. It was there that he not only visited libraries and menageries but also found a patron and published his first pioneering research.
The library of Amsterdam’s famous zoo Artis (contracted from Natura Artis Magistra) is now officially part of the library of the University of Amsterdam. Among its holdings is a major collection of books and prints having to do with the early years of Linnaeus’s career. Aap, Vis, Boek provides us with a most agreeable introduction to these treasures. Designer Frederik de Wal has arranged and presented the material with a sure hand; the panel were particularly enthusiastic about the well-considered, spacious and varied placing of the illustrations, and the book has a wonderful rhythm. The device of making the centreline of images of open books coincide with those of Aap, Vis, Boek itself has been expertly used and neatly exploits the way the book has been bound (Otabind). The quality of reproduction is excellent.
Typographically too the book is well thought-out and nicely presented. Fred Smeijers’s Arnhem typeface seems perfectly at home, partly perhaps because it is modelled on an eighteenth-century original.