Paris, Desray, 1802.
5 parts in 2 large folio volumes [505 x 333 mm] of: I/ (2) ll., x pp., 128, 70 numbered full-page plates, 8 pp., 6 numbered full-page plates, 28 pp., 9 numbered full-page plates ; II/ (2) ll., 128 pp., 89 numbered full-page plates (numbered 88 since there is a 26 bis), 40 pp., 16 numbered full-page plates including one on double-page (n°14). Thus a total of 190 plates. Some very light spotting. Half red shagreen, ribbed and decorated spine. Contemporary binding.
First edition illustrated with 190 copper plates after drawings by Jean-Baptiste Audebert, printed in colour and enhanced with pure gold according to an original method developed by Audebert.
Fine Bird Books p. 56 ; Nissen IVB, 47; Ronsil 103; Wood, p. 206; Zimmer, p. 17; Sander, Illustrierten franz ö sischen Bücher des 18. Jahrhunderts, 58 ; Balis 52 ; Buchanan, Nature into Art 105 ; Copenhagen / Anker 14 ; Cottrell 19 ; Ellis/Mengel 93 ; McGilI/Wood 206.
Published in 32 issues over 26 months, the print run was limited to 312 copies only: 200 with gold captions, 100 4to copies with black captions and 12 copies with the text entirely printed in gold.
One of the very precious 200 deluxe copies printed in large folio format with the captions printed in gold.
Jean-Baptiste Audebert (1759-1800) died during the publication of this work which was followed by Louis-Pierre Vieillot (1748-1831).
This is one of the most important ornithological publications of the 19th century.
The illustration includes 190 plates out of the text drawn by Audebert, engraved on copper by Louis Bouquet and printed in colour by Langlois, one of the best intaglio printers of the time.
Sixty-eight new species are described for the first time with extreme precision, “particularly from New Holland”.
Audebert had indeed solicited foreign collectors and firms in order to offer the most complete work possible. Having improved the printing and colouring process, Audebert had also called upon the greatest artists of his time.
“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).
“The plates with the bird portraits are in beautiful colours; in this respect they are among the best color prints found in ornithology” Anker 14.
The work is a magnificent testimony to the craze for ornithology books, which began in the second half of the 18th century, and flourished in the 19th century thanks to the technical prowess of colour printing.
“Jewel in the crown of this golden age of French ornithological iconography, Jean-Baptiste Audebert and Louis-Pierre Vieillot’s work focuses on birds with golden or silver plumage, which Buffon had precisely renounced for lack of being able to render their lustre.” (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Des livres rares depuis l’invention de l’imprimerie, n°108).
In order to reproduce the effects of plumage, Audebert had the idea of applying, […] after the printing of the colour, a fine series of small golden or silver lines. Thus enhanced, the bird’s plumage becomes sparkling and changes colour and appearance depending on the angle from which it is viewed. A surprising technical feat, the secret process of which is still unknown.” (Michel Schlup, Les grands livres d’oiseaux illustrés de la bibliothèque publique et universitaire de Neuchâtel, p. 85, article publié en 2000 dans la Revue de la Société suisse des bibliophiles).
“On most of the plates, even the gold was applied mechanically and not by hand, with the effect that the plates « look like medieval illuminations »” (Buchanan).
The folio issue with gold captions is very rare (200 copies in 1802) and very sought-after. On June 7, 1989, 32 years ago, the Bradley Martin copy in used half-binding was sold for $44,000 at Sotheby’s New York. On June 16, 1988, the Marcel Jeanson copy bound by Bozérian was estimated with buyer’s premium at 222,000 FF – 333,000 FF (33,800 € – 50,760 €), 33 years ago.
A superb copy of one of the most beautiful books devoted to birds, very wide margined and preserved in its contemporary binding.