BUFFON, (G.L.L.) & LACEPEDE, (B.G.E.).
Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roy .
Paris, l' Imprimerie Royale, Hôtel de Thou, Plassan, 1749-1804. 44 volumes. 4to (245 x 192mm). With1 engraved portrait of Buffon, 4 folded tables, 12 engraved maps and 1261 engraved plates. Contemporary almost uniform calf, richly gilt decorated spines with red and green gilt lettered labels.
A fine and attractively bound set of the rare first edition including the posthumously published volumes written by Lacépède on fishes, amphibians, snakes and whales. A well preserved set, of this great classic on natural history, dealing almost exclusively with zoology. Buffon's work enjoyed such a popularity that numerous editions and continuations were published throughout the 18th and 19th century. These, however, should not be confused with the above sumptuously printed 'Imprimerie Royale' edition. All plates are engraved after drawings by De Sève, the famous French landscape painter. The animals are depicted in their natural habitat, together with charming landscapes, villages, mountains etc. These elaborately drawn plates, full of elegance, became very popular and were frequently imitated. The work is composed as follows: Histoire Naturelle ... 15 volumes; Suppléments 7 volumes; Minéraux 5 volumes; Oiseaux 9 volumes; Quadrupèdes ovipares et des serpens 2 volumes; Poissons 5 volumes; Cétacées 1 volume. "... he opens his great work with an essay called 'Théorie de la Terre', in which for the first time he outlines a satisfactory account of the history of our globe and its development as a fitting home for living things... This rejection of a rigid system of classification, to which most biologists of his time adhered, and Buffon's belief in the mutability of species, implied clearly some preparation for the thoughts of Darwin... Nevertheless he was the first to present the universe as one complete whole and to find no phenomenon calling for any but a purely scientific explanation" (Printing and the Mind of Man, 198). The 5 volumes on fishes by Lacépède have almost identical but slightly different bindings, the final volume on whales 'Cétacées' also by Lacépède is in a contemporary but different full calf binding, both these works were published after the French Revolution. The section on fishes and whales form the final 6 volumes (vol. 39-44) of the 'Histoire Naturelle?' Provenance: Armorial bookplates of Bibliothèque de M. Le Cte Frédéric de Pourtales with motto 'Quid non dilectis' (the last 6 volumes, published after the revolution, are without bookplate. PMM 198; Sparrow, Milestones of Science 32; Nissen ZBI, 672; Dibner, Heralds 193.
Item nr. 9823
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