LEVAILLANT, François (1753-1824). Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux d'Afrique. Paris: J.J. Fuchs and Delachaussée, [1796-] 1799-1808.
6 volumes, large 4° (333 x 248mm). 300 fine etched plates (5 double-page), printed in color and finished by hand, by C.M. Fessard and J.L. Perée after J.L. Reinold. (Some spotting and offsetting.) Near-contemporary red-brown morocco gilt, edges gilt (extremities scuffed, some chipping to spine labels, spines somewhat discolored). Provenance: Sold Christie’s London, 30 October 1996, lot 255.
FIRST EDITION. A fine copy of "by far the most important ornithological work on Africa published up to this period" (Mendelssohn). The work was published in both 4° and 2° formats in 51 parts, the printing directed initially by J.B. Audebert and continued by Langlois. Levaillant was the son of the French consul to Dutch Guiana, and through him acquired a love of travel; his interest in natural history began at an early age, and in 1779 he set off on his first trip to southern Africa, arriving in Cape Town in March 1781. He completed his first six-month trip of the Veldt the following year, and began a second trip in 1783 travelling north up the Orange River. On his return to France he was imprisoned by the revolutionaries, but survived and returned to his estate of La Noue in Champagne, where he wrote about the exotic fauna that he loved. Anker 298; Fine Bird Books 90; Mendelssohn 1, 892; Nissen IVB 555; cf. Zimmer 391.