Cut-paper collage postcard. Background text is from the entry on “serpents” in an 1880 encyclopedia, printed on handmade Thai paper with banana leaf inclusions. South American guava-tree scene is from an engraving credited to Albertus Seba, although I doubt he did the work himself.
Seba was a Dutch pharmacist who set up his business next to the Amsterdam harbor in 1700. He started by asking sailors and ship surgeons to bring exotic plants and animal products he could use for preparing drugs, then got into collecting specimens of snakes, birds, insects, shells and lizards in his house. Apparently Linnaeus visited Seba’s collection a couple of times and used it as part of the basis for his famous classification system.
My husband is a biologist: he poured over books trying to figure out the species of the bird and snake depicted. He concluded that the bird is probably a hummingbird, but its shape isn’t quite right, so it may have been preserved in a faulty way. The snake he couldn’t find in any of his snake books, so either it’s extinct, or else the colors are fanciful.