Oiseaux Dorés ou à Reflets Métalliques. Histoire Naturelle et Générale des Colibris, Oiseaux-Mouches, Jacamars et Promerops/ Histoire Naturelle et Générale des Grimpéraux et des Oiseaux de Paradis.
Eur 22,000 / USD 23,100
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Paris, AN XI- (1800-) 1802. 2 volumes. Small folio (335 x 245mm). With 190 (some folding) colour-printed engraved plates by Audebert, many heightened with gold, printed by Langlois. Contemporary calf, spines in 6 compartments with gilt ornaments and lettering, sides with gilt and blind pressed border (hinges splitting at foot but firm).
Its plates, heightened with gold
The regular issue. "Its plates, heightened with gold, and so finished that they are little less than hand-illuminated engravings, make this one of the most beautiful books of its era... It is the gold reflections of the plumage that render the book unique and wonderful" (Fine Bird Books). Napoleon initiated a series of magnificent natural history publications that would vie with those undertaken to the order of Louis XIV, such as the present book together with Levaillant's superb ornithological monographs as well as the works by Redouté.
The colour-printing is by Langlois, he did most of Levaillant's plates, and was one of the most celebrated colour-printers of France. The general title of the work is actually taken from the half-titles, each volume treating several genera and having its own title page. Volume I: 'Histoire naturelle et générale des colibris, oiseaux-mouches, jacamars et promerops; Volume II: 'Histoire naturelle et générale des grimpéraux et des oiseaux de paradis'.
Apart from the small section on 'Promerops', all birds of the first volume are American birds, mostly from the West-Indies and South America. "The colours of the birds and their handsome appearance have evidently been the cause of their selection for inclusion in the book. The plates with their bird portraits are in beautiful colours; in this respect they are among the best prints found in ornithology" (Anker 14). A special edition was published of two hundred copies in large folio with the captions printed in gold.
Fine Bird Books p. 56; Nissen IVB, 16; Ronsil 103; Anker 14.