DESCOURTILZ, Jean Théodore (c. 1796-1855). Ornithologie brésilienne ou Histoire des Oiseaux du Brésil, remarquables par leur plumage, leur chant ou leurs habitudes. Rio de Janeiro: Waterlow and Sons, London for Thomas Reeves, [?1852-1856].
4 parts [all published] in one volume, 2° (580 x 420mm). Letterpress title with woodcut armorial of Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, the dedicatee, letterpress music in the text, text printed in double columns within a letterpress frames. 48 chromolithographic plates finished by hand after Descourtilz. (Title slightly spotted and marked, lacking dedication leaf, title, text and plates affected by minor worming, some holes neatly repaired, a few plates cropped, causing loss of some titles or numbers and small loss of image on plate 8). Modern crimson morocco-backed boards, spine blind-tooled in compartments, lettered in one (board-edges lightly rubbed).
THE RARE FIRST EDITION OF 'A VERY IMPORTANT, FUNDAMENTAL, SYSTEMATIC TREATISE' (Wood). Ornithologie brésilienne 'contains descriptions and figures of 164 species of Brazilian birds, including 15 new species and a new genus' (Zimmer). Only four parts of the work were published, each containing the descriptive text and 12 plates by Descourtilz, before it was curtailed by Descourtilz's death in 1855. The plates were made up in London, and the work appears to have been printed by Waterlow and Sons and also Joseph Masters and Co. (copies cited by Zimmer and Wood bear Masters's name in the imprint). Jean Théodore Descourtilz was probably born in 1796, the son of the botanist Michel Étienne Descourtilz (1775-1836), author of Flore [Pittoresque et] Médicale des Antilles (Paris: 1821-1829) and other works. Descourtilz fils 'is known to have been in Haiti in 1799 ..., to be painting in Antilles in 1821 [presumably preparing the original drawings for the plates in his father's Flore ... des Antilles], and was then appointed to the national museum of Rio de Janeiro in 1854' (C.E. Jackson, Dictionary of Bird Artists of the World, Woodbridge, Suffolk: 1999, p. 221). On the title of this work he styles himself 'Dr. J.T. Descourtilz' (on the title page of his Oiseaux Brillants du Brésil (Paris: 1834), he appears as 'J. Th. Descourtilz'), and describes himself as 'membre de la Société Linnéenne de Paris et de la Société Auxiliaire de l'Industrie de Rio de Janeiro'. The first book that J.T. Descourtilz -- a 'meticulous artist' (C.E. Jackson, op. cit., p.221) -- is known to have illustrated was his father's Flore ... des Antilles, and his work on this book would have supplied him with a solid grounding in the botanical aspects of his art, which inform the flora around the birds illustrated. 'RARE AND GREATLY SOUGHT AFTER' (Borba de Moraes); only 6 other copies with all 48 plates are recorded at auction by ABPC since 1975. BM(NH) I, p.443; Borba de Moraes I, p. 260; Coues p. 269; Fine Bird Books p. 90; Nissen IVB 236; Sabin 19692; Wood p.315; Zimmer p. 166.