First issue of the most beautiful and most famous illustrated book by Buffon containing 973 engravings dedicated to birds, drawn by Martinet under the direction of Edmée-Louis Daubenton and entirely illuminated in attractive contemporary coloring, each highlighted with a watercolor frame in yellow.
A supplement of 35 plates about insects and reptiles not present here is only attached to some copies and is not mentioned in the index.
Nissen, IV, B, 158; Ronsil, 76; Anker, 76; Fine Bird Bocks, 63-64.
This edition makes an inventory of the collection of birds of the cabinet of the king.
“One of the most important of all bird books from the collector's point of view.” Stillweil, 63.
“This edition was certainly the most ambitions and comprehensive bird book which had appeared at the time of its publication, and ranks still as one of the most important of all bird books…”. (Fine Bird Books).
“Our work will contain almost everything we know of birds and yet it will only be as we see a summary or rather a sketch of their history, only this sketch will be the first we made in this way because the old and new works, which have been given the title of History of Birds, contain almost nothing Historical ...ˮ Buffon (excerpt from the preface of the 1st volume).
It was in 1765 that Daubenton began, at the instigation of Buffon, the publication of these plates. In 1780, 42 issues containing 1 008 plates had been published, in no particular order and without text. The intention of the author was that these plates serve to illustrate the 44 ornithological volumes of Buffon's “l’Histoire naturelle générale et particulière”, which was made impossible due to the limited edition of the colored prints.
A new suite of 262 ornithological engravings in black was published to illustrate the 9 volumes of Buffon's Natural History and Buffon simultaneously published in 10 volumes this special edition in four different formats using Martinet's plates accompanied by the text substantially identical to that of “the Natural Historyˮ. Philibert Gueneau de Montbeillard and the Abbé Bexon contributed to the production of the text.
"One will recognize everywhere the easy talent of Sir Martinet who drew & engraved all these birds, & the enlightened attentions of Sir Daubenton the young who, alone, led this great enterprise; I say great, by the immense detail it involves, & by the continuous care it supposes: more than eighty artists & workmen were employed continuously, for five years, for this work, although we restricted it to a small number of copies.” (Plan de l’ouvrage, p. VIII).
Also collaborated on this gigantic enterprise Philippe Guéneau de Montbeilliard (1720‑1785) for the first six volumes and Abbot Gabriel Bexon (1748-1784) for the last four. This ambitious publication, started in 1765, was completed around 1780.
Superb copy particularly fresh and with wide margins, exactly identical to the copy cataloged and sold for 195 000 € on June 3, 2010, 11 years ago (Ref: Livres précieux, June 2010, n° 158).