BUFFON, Georges-Louis-Marie Le Clerc (1707-88). Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux. Paris: Imprimerie Royale (vols. VII-X suivant la copie de l'Imprimerie Royale), [1770-]1771-1786.
10 volumes, large 2° (453 x 310mm). LARGE-PAPER ISSUE. Text within decorative borders, 1008 fine hand-coloured plates, 15 avant lettre, including the 35 non-ornithological subjects, drawn and engraved by Franz Nicolaus Martinet under the supervision of Edme Louis Daubenton. (Lacking 6pp. table in volume IX and several blanks, some light offsetting of text onto about 30 plates, most in vols. VIII and IX, hand-colouring of about 12 plates a little smudged, occasional very light spotting or browning to text and a few plates.) Crimson morocco by C. Smith, covers with decorative border of triple gilt fillets enclosing a classically-inspired roll and decorative corner-pieces, Botfield arms in the centre, spine in seven compartments, lettered in two, the others with arabesques composed from various flower and foliage tools, triple fillet on turn-ins, gilt edges (spines faded to tan). Provenance: Beriah Botfield (binding; Longleat sale, Christie's, 30 March 1994, lot 55).
THE BOTFIELD COPY OF ONE OF THE EARLIEST AND MOST IMPORTANT LANDMARKS IN THE HISTORY OF ORNITHOLOGY. The large-paper issue is described by Buffon as "Grand in-folio avec les planches enluminés, en grand papier". "ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL BIRD BOOKS FROM THE COLLECTOR'S POINT OF VIEW" (Fine Bird Books). In 1765 Daubenton the younger, at Buffon's instigation, commenced the publication of the plates. By 1780 or a little later 42 cahiers (with 1008 plates) had appeared, in no particular order, and without text. The intention was that the plates should illustrate the ornithological volumes of Buffon's Histoire Naturelle générale et particulière (1749-1804): this proved impossible because of the limited edition of the coloured plates. A new set of 262 black-and-white plates was prepared for the nine ornithological volumes of the Natural History, and Buffon simultaneously produced, in ten volumes, the present special edition (in four distinct formats) using Martinet's plates and essentially the same text as appeared in the Natural History. Philibert Gueneau de Montbeillard and l'Abbé Bexon assisted Buffon with the text.
The avant-lettre plates are as follows: Vol. VI plate no.872; vol. VII plate no.888, 887 and 879; vol. VIII plate no.890, 891, 873, 906, 901, 907, 885, 895, 884; vol. IX plate no.896, 379. They each have manuscript plate numbers and titles. None of the references cited mention these variants. The 35 non-ornithological plates feature 6 of Beetles, 21 of Butterflies and Moths, 3 of Toads and Lizards, 4 of Coral and 1 of Mantidae. Being supplementary, they are missing in many copies. Anker 76; Mengel 411; Fine Bird Books p. 63; Nissen IVB 158; Zimmer p. 104. (10)