In the summer months, until August 11th 2019, the Zwarte Tulp Museum (The Museum of the Black Tulip) in Lisse, The Netherlands, displays the bulb catalog of Emmanuel Sweerts,(1552-1612), the very first bulb catalog in the world. The catalog was published in 1612, in the time of the young Rembrandt. His friend Constantijn Huygens used the catalog to construct his famous garden in Voorburg.
2019 is the Rembrandt year. In our mind we go back to the seventeenth century. What kind of world did Rembrandt live in? For example, did he visit the Hortus Botanicus in his hometown of Leiden, with his world-famous bulb collection? Which flowers did he know? Fortunately it is known exactly which bulbs were in circulation at the beginning of the 17th century, thanks to the bulb catalog of the Amsterdammer Emmanuel Sweerts. Sweerts had been court gardener of Emperor Rudolf II in Vienna. He sold his bulbs in Amsterdam, in his son-in-law’s bookstore, and at the annual fair in Frankfurt. In 1612 he published a catalog with all the bulbs in his possession, the very first bulb catalog in the world. The images were drawn and printed by engravers. The book was so successful that it was reprinted several times. This catalog is now on display at the Zwarte Tulp Museum in Lisse, situated in a restored, old building at the town centre of Lisse. The museum shows the history of the Bulb District as well as the origins and the development of bulb culture. The museum paints an enthralling picture of the remarkable ‘bulb-to-flower-to-bulb’ cycle by means of: pictures, photos and videos on the working of soil; bulb culture artifacts; shed interiors; and a small specialized library.