MANETTI, Saverio (1723-1784), Lorenzo LORENZI and Violante VANNI (1732-1776). Storia naturale degli Uccelli. Florence: heirs of F. Mouck (vols. I-III), C. Cambiagi (vol. IV), Giuseppe Vanni (vol. V), 1767-1776.
5 volumes, 2° (461 x 355mm). Engraved title by Lorenzi after Giuseppe Zocchi and letterpress Italian and Latin titles with engraved vignette in each volume, dedication to vols. I-III with engraved first page followed by letterpress text, engraved dedication leaf in vols. IV and V by Lorenzi, the last after Giuliano Traballesi, engraved portrait of Gerini after Zocchi, 4 engraved initials and one engraved measurement illustration in vol. I, letterpress text in Latin and Italian, indices in English, French, Latin and Italian, 600 hand-coloured finely engraved plates by Lorenzi and Vanni, numbered I-DC. (Neat tear in 3 plates, light spot in two.) Contemporary Italian red morocco gilt, bird tools at corners, edges gilt and line-gauffered (minor scuffing, repairs at spine). Provenance: George Nassau Clavering Cowper, 3rd Earl Cowper (1738-89); by descent (Panshanger bookplate).
FINELY-BOUND ASSOCIATION COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION OF ONE OF THE GREATEST 18TH-CENTURY BIRD BOOKS. Lord Cowper lived at Florence from 1760, where he became a leading member of Florentine society. He and Manetti, also a notable figure as a physician and director of the Florentine Botanical Gardens from 1749-82, would have known each other, and indeed Manetti dedicated one of the plates in the present work to Lord Cowper. In addition to his patronage of art and music, Lord Cowper was actively engaged with the natural sciences at Florence. He was a supporter of Count Volta in his experiments in electricity, and Cowper's own collection of scientific instruments was acquired by the University of Bologna after his death.
Manetti worked almost exclusively from real specimens, beginning with the extensive collection of Marquis Giovanni Gerini. The result was one of the largest surveys of ornithology attempted up to that date, a work 'larger, better engraved and more vividly coloured than any previous book on birds', notable for its lively posturing of the specimens which seem to reflect 'the habits and mannerisms of contemporary Italian society' (Dance). It is "one of the half-dozen or so Great Bird Books in the collector's sense" (Fine Bird Books). Dance p.70; Nissen IVB 588; Wood p.450; Fine Bird Books p.10; Zimmer I, 241. (5)