PALISOT DE BEAUVOIS, A.M.F.J.
Insectes recueillis en Afrique et en Amérique, dans les Royaumes d'Oware et de Benin, à Saint-Domingue et dans les États-Unis, pendant les années 1786-1797.
Paris, Levrault, An XIII-1805 (-21). Large Folio (460 x 305mm). pp. (4), xvi, 276, with 90 fine colour-printed engraved plates with delicate hand finishing, the plates engraved by J.G. Prêtre and printed by Langlois. In its original disbound leaves preserved in a modern cloth box.
First edition of this rare and magnificent work. The first entomological iconography on African insects and a major contibution to early American entomology. Palisot de Beauvois (1752-1820) was a French naturalist and traveller. The present work was published in 15 parts over a period of 16 years, the last part being posthumously published by J.G. Audinet Serville. The superbly executed plates are by J.G. Prêtre, one of the finest artists of the period, and colour printed by Langlois, the great master of colour printing who supervised most of Redouté's best works. Palisot de Beauvois suffered 3 great losses of collections made between the years 1786-1798: most of the Owara and Benin collections (in storage in Owara) were plundered by the British in 1792; his Haitian collections burned along with his house and other belonging in 1793; and most of his U.S. collections were lost at sea in 1798. "Palisot published a major entomological work entitled, 'Insectes Recueillis en Afrique et en Amerique'. Palisots work is significant because, while some workers had described American beetles before him, he was one of the first to both actively collect and describe American insects along with his contemporary, Fredrick Melsheimer (the elder). In addition to the hundreds of common insects that he described, the work is also notable for his proposed ordinal classification of Insects. A large number of Scarabaeidae are included in this work, many described and/or illustrated for the first time. The total includes 39 species in the genus Scarabaeus, 17 species of Copris, seven species of Trox, four Cetonia and four Trichius. Among these were the first descriptions of such familiar beetles as Canthon viridis (P.B.), Macrodactylus angustatus (P.B.) and Osmoderma scabra (P.B.). A problem, ... is that many of the species that Palisot attributed to 'Amérique' were actually collected in 'Afrique', and vice versa. Moreover, he included species, such as Dynastes hercules (L.), which do not occur within the U.S. or Santo Domingo, creating type localities for species that in some cases are outside of their natural range... Because of the French revolution and his former status in the nobility as the Baron de Beauvois, Palisot was unable to return to France without risking the guillotine. Instead he boarded a ship bound for the United States but, en route, was relieved of his remaining belongings by pirates and thus he arrived in Philadelphia penniless and bereft. He was able to make a living by joining a circus as a musician, but he eventually returned to work as a botanist, hired to curate the private collection of C.W. Peale. In Philadelphia he became a member of the American Philosophical Society, published in its Transactions, and resumed his natural history collecting with the financial support of the French Attache, Paul Adet, a scientist in his own right. Palisots collecting forays in the United States ranged as far west as the Ohio River and as far south as Savannah, Georgia. When finally notified by colleagues in Paris that his citizenship had been restored, Palisot began making plans for his return to Europe, including arrangements for the shipment of his specimens. Unfortunately, these collections were lost when the ship carrying them sank off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1798. He left the United States that same year and returned to his native France. Based on the material that had survived prior shipments, but mainly on his sketches, Palisot published works on plants and insects, the latter in a series of 15 booklets (livraisons) issued between 1805 and 1821, the last issued one year after his death. Griffin (1932, 1937) provides the dates of issue for each individual livraison. Each livraison included five to six plates, each with illustrations of six or nine of the insects described in the text, and it is on these sketches rather than actual specimens that Palisots species are often recognized". (Biographical sketch contributed by Don Thomas, USDA, Weslaco, Texas). The copy is uncut and preserved in its original disbound leaves and was never bound. Some margins a bit dusty and a few plates slightly browned. 16 plates show butterflies. Nissen ZBI, 3036; Ekema, Teyler, 267 'magnifique ouvrage'; Junk, Bibliographia Coleopterologica (Berlin 1912), 2580 'Tres-rare'.
Item nr. 7397
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