Historiae Animalium (I-IV). First editions. All published, during Gessner's lifetime, bound in 3 volumes. Folio (390 x 250mm). Contemporary calf, old manuscript label on spines.
(I:) Gessner, C. Historiae Animalium Liber I. De Quadrupedibus viviparis. Zürich, Froschauer, 1551.Folio. pp. (40), 1104, (12), with woodcut printer's mark on title page and 83 woodcuts, of which some full-page. (II:) Gessner, C. Historiae Animalium Liber II. De Quadrupedibus oviparis Adiectae sunt etiam novae aliquot quadrupedum figurae... Zürich, Froschauer, 1554. Folio. pp. (6, 2 blank), (2 blank), 110, (2 blank), 27, (1 blank), with printer's device on title and 43 woodcuts in the text. (III:) Gessner, C. Historiae Animalium Liber III. qui est de Avium natura. Adiectis sunt ab initio Indices....Zürich, Froschauer 1555. Folio. pp. (34, 2 blank), 779, with printer's woodcut device on title and 217 woodcuts of birds, some full-page and name indexes in 10 languages. (IV:) Gessner, C. Historiae Animalium Liber IIII. qui est de Piscium & aquatilium animantium natura. Cum iconibus singulorum ad vivum expressis. Continentur in hoc volumine, Gulielmi Rondeletii & Petri Belonii Cenomani de aquatilium singulis scripta. Zürich, Froschauer, 1558. Folio. pp. (40), 1297, (1 blank), with woodcut printer's device and 737 woodcuts in the text.
First editions and all published during Gessner's lifetime. The very thin (85 pages) volume V on serpents was published posthumously by Gessner's friends Carron and Wolf from his notes. It is rare to find all the volumes in the first edition. Gessner's zoological works are 'considered the basis of modern zoology' It is the foremost purely zoological work of the Renaissance period and based on the author's extensive journeys throughout Europe as well as on his immense knowledge of previously published literature. Its influence on science of the succeeding age was considerable. In each part Gessner describes one animal after the other on the lines of Pliny, but with far greater knowledge based on his own experience and criticism. (I:) The first part of the zoological encyclopedia, on mammals. "Gessner also provided the names of each animal in as many languages as were known or available to him, and he even proposed suitable German names for animals that had not yet been named in the vernacular. The indexes to these names are in Latin, Hebrew, Arabic and Persian..., Greek, Italian, Spanish, French, German, English and 'Illyric' (which means the Slavic languages Czech, Polish and Russian, the latter in Romanized form)" (Wellisch A 23,1). The fine woodcuts include that of God creating Eve from Adams's rib surrounded by animals in the Garden of Eden. (II). The second volume concerns amphibians. (III:) The third volume on birds has name indexes in 10 languages. (IV) In his 'Liber IV qui est de Piscium & Aquatilium' Gessner 'discussed and illustrated many molluscs' (Dance p. 18). The work deals with fishes and other aquatic animals. Many of the woodcuts were cut after paintings by Lukas Schan, some of which survived as part of the Felix Platter collection in the Basle University Library. The original drawings for many of these illustrations were recently discovered in the Amsterdam University Library. See Florike Egmond and Sachiko Kusukawa, 'Circulation of images and graphic practices in Renaissance natural history: the example of Conrad Gessner', Gesnerus 73/1 (2016), pp 29-72 and Conrad Gessners 'Thierbuch'. Die Originalzeichnungen, Darmstadt 2018. The woodcuts contain the first naturalistic representations of the animal kingdom, and effectively herald the birth of the zoological book illustration. They are archetypes of much subsequent animal illustrations even into the 18th century. A nice contemporary, almost uniformly bound set. The 3 volumes have been always together considering the similar thumb-index in all volumes. One binding with some minor repairs and another volume with ends of spine rubbed. Title of part I mounted, and with old armorial stamp, the margin of lower part of the title of part II with paper repair and armorial stamp on following page, title of part IV with armorial stamp and some light minor staining. An exceptionally fresh and well preserved set without any foxing, the best copy of this rare item we have been able to offer since decades. Wellisch A 23,1; 24,1; 25,1; and 26,1; PMM77; Nissen, ZBI 1549, 1550, 1553, and Nissen, IVB 349.
Item nr. 9913
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