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Étienne GEOFFROY SAINT-HILAIRE (1772-1844) and Frédéric CUVIER (1773-1838).
Étienne GEOFFROY SAINT-HILAIRE (1772-1844) and Frédéric CUVIER (1773-1838).

Étienne GEOFFROY SAINT-HILAIRE (1772-1844) and Frédéric CUVIER (1773-1838). Histoire Naturelle des Mammifères avec les figures originales d'après des animaux vivans ... Paris: A. Belin (volumes I-III) and A. Blaise (volume IV), [1818]-1842. 4 volumes (i.e. 72 livraisons) bound in 3, 2° (485 x 318mm). Letterpress titles and half-titles. 431 (?of 432) hand-coloured lithographic plates by A. Belin, Brégeaut & Cie, Delaporte, Langlumé, C. de Lasteyrie, and J.C. Werner after de Wailly, Huet, Maréchal, Saulnier, and C. Werner. (Occasional light spotting or browning, a few plates heavily browned, the 'Dauphin de Risso', 'Daw jeune' and 'Phoque commun' plates misbound, the 'Isatis Gris' and 'Bouquetin des Pyrénées' plates with shorter margins and inserted, lacking the accompanying text for the 'Marguai' plate in volume III, livraisons 71-72 without marbled edges and inserted later). Contemporary Dutch blue half calf gilt by H. Haye of Amsterdam, with his ticket to the upper pastedown of each volume, the spines elaborately gilt and divided into four compartments by 5 raised bands roll-tooled in gilt, titled in one compartment, the other three decorated with naturalistic gilt tools depicting a heron holding a snake in its beak, an elephant and a seated monkey, purple cloth-covered boards blind-stamped with a floral pattern, marbled endpapers and edges (extremities lightly rubbed). A RARE COPY IN A HANDSOME CONTEMPORARY BINDING OF 'UN DES OUVRAGES LES PLUS EXACTS ET LES MIEUX EXéCUTéS QUE L'ON AIT ENCORE DONNéES SUR LES MAMMIFèRES' (Brunet). The work of two of the most celebrated French zoologists of the period, Histoire naturelle des Mammifères ... was published in 70 livraisons between 1818 and 1837, 'in which approximately 500 species were described (about 100 were known slightly)' (DSB III, p.521); these 70 were followed by a further 2 supplementary livraisons in 1842, edited and seen through the presses by Cuvier's son. Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire studied first theology and then law as a young man, but his scientific interests led him to medicine, and then on to botany and zoology. In 1793 he became a sous-garde and sous-demonstrateur at the Jardin de Plantes, which led his elevation, at the age of 21, to one of 12 newly-created chairs as Professor of Zoology for Vetebrated Animals, when the Jardin des Plantes became the Muséum d'Histoire naturelle in June of that year. Under his stewardship, the cabinet of specimens became a collection of international importance: 'j'entrai en correspondance avec les principaux naturalistes de l'Europe; je fus puissamment secondé par leur zèle, et la collection des quadrupèdes vivipares ou des mammifères est maintenant le plus riche dépôt de ce genre qui existe' (Nouvelle Biographie Générale XX, col.43, quoting Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire's Vie, Travaux et Doctrine scientifique d'Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire). In 1795 Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire invited the then-unknown Georges Cuvier (the more famous elder brother of the co-author of the present work), to Paris to work with him as Assistant Professor of Animal Anatomy at the Muséum d'Histoire naturelle, and together the 2 collaborators published 5 mémoires, including Sur la classification des Mammifères (Paris: 1795), a work that was to contain the germ of Cuvier's early thought on the variability and evolution of species, a subject that would eventually divide the 2 scientists. In 1798 Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire joined Napoleon's scientific commission which was performing pioneering archeological and scientific work in Egypt, and assembled a cabinet of specimens. Following Napoleon's defeat, this cabinet was threatened with confiscation by the British, under the statute used to acquire, amongst other artefacts, the Rossetta Stone. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, in turn, threatened to burn the collection rather than surrender it. The British promptly exempted his collection from the statute, and, following his return to France in 1801, it was deposited at the Muséum d'Histoire naturelle. In 1804, Frédéric Cuvier joined the Muséum d'Histoire naturelle as keeper of the museum menagerie, where, in addition to co-writing the Histoire Naturelle des Mammifères ..., he contributed many articles to Levrault's Dictionnaire des Science Naturelles (Paris: 1816-1830) and wrote numerous articles and some 14 books, including Des Dents de Mammifères considérées comme charactères zoologiques (Paris: 1825). Perhaps his most original and important studies were those on the intelligence of primates and the social interactions between various species of mammals. The Histoire Naturelle des Mammifères ... provides a lasting record of the scientific and curatorial work of these 2 remarkable natural historians, who were the principal architects, both theoretically and practically, of the systematic study of mammals in France. Mammifères is a rare work, in its complete form, presumably due to the length of its publication; only 2 other copies complete with all 72 livraisons are recorded at auction since 1975, the first sold at Sotheby's, London (1 February 1984, lot 25 and 23 April 1987, lot 29, '7 volumes bound in 5, 431 ... plates'); and the second sold in these rooms (17 March 1999, lot 122 cited). BM(NH) II, p.656; Brunet II, cols.1535-1536; Graesse III, p.51; Nissen ZBI 1525; Wood p.354.

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