Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis et des Rolliers, suivie de celles des Toucans et des Barbut.
Paris, Denné le jeune/ Perlet, (1801-) 1806. 2 volumes. Large-folio (515 x 335mm). With 114 colour-printed engraved plates, with extensive gouache hand-finishing, some heightened in gold, extra illustrated with 2 original watercolours. Contemporary tree calf, richly gilt ornamented spines with bird ornaments, red and black gilt lettered labels, sides with gilt borders (bound by the Dutch bookbinder J. Froding).
An exceptional Deluxe Copy of one of the most spectacular works on exotic birds, a presentation copy to Jacob Temminck. The plates of the 'Oiseaux de Paradis...' are usually printed in colour and lightly finished by hand. Copies, as the present one, with gouache colouring and illumination on a bistre base and sometimes heightened with gold, and adding extensive foliage and branches to each plate were prepared for special presentation. These copies were extra illustrated with original watercolours and the plates are more brilliant and lively. Our copy has two original watercolours 'Tete de l'Oiseaux de Paradis grand Emeraude grandeur naturelle' and 'L'Oiseau de Paradis l'Incomparable grandeur naturelle'. Some faint occasional marginal dampstaining. Along with his equally famous work on parrots, the 'Oiseaux de Paradis' is the pinnacle of Levaillant's achievement in book production and the finest example of Jacques Barraband's brilliance as a bird artist. Ronsil considered this work to be unequalled among French bird books. The illustrations include 24 plates of birds of paradise; 15 of rollers; 17 of jays; 18 of toucans; 24 of barbets; 5 of tamatias; 3 of barbacous; and 8 of jacamars. The plates were engraved by Pérée, Grémillier and Bouquet, after drawings by Jacques Barraband, and were printed by Langlois and Rousset. Jacques Barraband's work for Levaillant undoubtedly marks the high point of his career and makes it clear why he was considered the best ornithological artist of his generation. He was a pupil of Joseph Maline and subsequently worked as a draughtsman at the Gobelins tapestry factory. His painted porcelain was exhibited at the Paris Salons from 1798 to 1806; he also decorated the dining-room in Napoleon's chateau at St Cloud. Barraband's relatively early death at the age of 41 and the following works of Audubon and Gould have perhaps prevented him from being placed alongside his contemporary Redouté as one of the greatest natural history artists of all time. He produced over 300 beautiful watercolours for Levaillant's books. François Levaillant (1753-1824) was born in Paramaribo, the capital of Dutch Guiana, and was the son of the French Consul there. When his father returned to Europe, in 1763, he studied natural history at Metz. He was sent by the Dutch East India Company to the Cape Province of South Africa in 1781, and collected specimens there until 1784. He sent over 2,000 bird skins to Jacob Temminck, who had financed the expedition, and these were later studied by his son Conrad Jacob Temminck and are included in the collection of the museum at Leiden. "Levaillant first met Jacob Temminck (1748-1822) in 1780. Temminck had a powerful position as treasurer of the Dutch East India Company. Besides, he had a lively interest in natural history, maintaining both a cabinet and an aviary with living birds. The size of his collection at that early date is not known. However, Levaillant was impressed by this 'brilliante collection'… Temminck was the obvious person to be approached by Levaillant to help him with his plans for travelling abroad considering the similarities in age and interest, as well as Temminck's position" (Rookmaaker, The Zoological Exploration of Southern Africa 1650-1790, p. 259). Our copy together with the 'Oiseaux d'Afrique' was sold in Paris 'Aguttes 14 April 2010' (the copies got split up later). Both items had identical bindings, and both copies were special copies with original plates inserted and clearly belonged together. The 'Oiseaux d'Afrique' has a handwritten dedication to J. Temminck and a watercolour frontispiece with a notice 'Exempl. Soignéé' (sic) and both works must have been a present to Temminck. Another presentation copy to J. Temminck is known (sale Marcel Jeanson, Sotheby's Monaco 16 June 1988), also an 'Exempl. Soigné') with extra original watercolours. Probably our copy was a present for Jacob's son Coenrad Jacob Temminck (1778-1858) first director of the Natural History Museum at Leiden. Fine Birds Books, p. 90; Nissen IVB, 559; Ronsil 1780.
Item nr. 9673
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