BUFFON, Georges-Louis Marie Leclerc, comte de.

Natural History,


Natural History,
General and Particular, by the Count de Buffon, illustrated with above six hundred copper plates. The History of Man and Quadrupeds; translated by William Smellie, member of the Antiquarian and Royal Societies of Edinburgh. A New Edition carefully corrected and considerably enlarged by many additional articles, notes and plates. And some account of the life of M. de Buffon. By William Wood, F. L. S.
London Printed for T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1812.

In stock


“Ranks still as one of the most important of all bird books from the collector’s point of view” (Fine Bird Books).
There is a table of contents at the beginning of each volume listing species/types of bird, each of which has a written description, followed by exquisite hand-coloured plates of the described birds. These engravings being by Francois-Nicolas Martinet who had also collaborated on the L’Ornithologie by Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760, as well as in the Encyclopaedia of Diderot. By the end of his lifetime he was so experienced in producing ornithological engravings that he published his own book of them. He was celebrated for the realism with which he drew, as contemporaries and predecessors lacked proportion when drawing birds, which made their actual identification for an amateur ornithologist extremely difficult.
Buffon was an aristocratic eighteenth century naturalist, mathematician, and biologist. He was appointed keeper of the “Jardin du Roi”, later the “Jardin des Plantes”, and the collection connected with it, the “Cabinet du Roi” in 1739. He augmented the collection of birds exponentially, increasing it to more than 800 species gathered from all four corners of the globe. In 1765 at Buffon’s direction, Martinet began drawing and painting the collection and engraved the plates under the supervision of Edme Daubenton.
In 1770 the first volume devoted to birds was published: “Its popularity was primarily assured by Buffon’s great literary ability which allowed him to present even the most difficult topics in such sparkling style, in such a universally understandable form, and so fascinating a manner that, as was said, even ladies found amusement in reading about them. The special merit of the work is principally due to the fact that it was the first to create interest in Nature and natural history in wide circles” (Anker). Buffon’s “Oiseaux” was ultimately issued in four formats: the large and ordinary paper folio sets were issued with hand-colored plates by and after Francois Martinet. Quarto and twelve-mo issues were also produced, illustrated with a series of black and white plates drawn by de Seve.


20 vols., over 600 copper plate engravings, light age-toning to extremities, some very occasional, light spotting, else near fine, near-contemporary crushed green morocco gilt, maroon letting pieces, marbled endpapers and edges, generally rubbed, occasional soiling, spines darkened, some ends chipped but still a handsome set and internally very good.



Stock ID: 97187