FRANOIS LEVAILLANT (1753-1824)
Six plates from Histoire naturelle des perroquets. Paris: Levrault frres, [n.d.]. Without text. 6 FINE ENGRAVED PLATES [sheet size: 505 x 328mm], avant-lettre, on papier vlin colombier satin, after Jacques Barraband. Modern binding, to style, using early French blue figured paper as wrappers, with original letterpress label from an original livraison, cloth slipcase, black morocco lettering-piece on upper cover of slipcase.
AN UNRECORDED FORM OF SIX OF BARRABAND'S PLATES: BEFORE LETTERS, ON PAPIER VLIN COLOMBIER SATIN, AND, ACCORDING TO THE WRAPPER LABEL, LIMITED TO 10 COPIES. The received wisdom is that Levaillant's work was published in two formats, 4to and folio, both published in 24 parts. In addition, 12 copies were issued in large folio with the plates in coloured and uncoloured states. The present part issue is not recorded in any of the standard bibliographies. The wrapper-label notes the work "In-folio, sur papier vlin colombier, satin, avec figures colories, preuves avant la lettre. (Il n'en sera tir que dix exemplaires, numrots de 1 10.)".
Levaillant, one of the greatest French ornithologists, was the son of the French consul in Dutch Guiana. He was born in Paramarimbo and seems to have inherited his father's love of travel. He became one of the first of a new breed of naturalists who attained prominence towards the end of the 18th century, studying and recording their subjects in their natural habitat. Barraband (1767-1809) worked for the Gobelin factory and was considered the best ornithological artist of his time. Langlois's engravings capture the precision and beauty of his gouache and watercolour originals. "After he had made himself Emperor, it was part of Napoleon's deliberate policy to initiate a series of magnificent publications that would vie with those undertaken on the orders of Louis XIV. These were sent as presents to crowned heads, men of science, and learned bodies, in evidence of the splendours of the Empire... The works of Levaillant owe their sumptuous character to... [this].. impetus. His Histoire naturelle des perroquets is, unwittingly, a part of the glories of Napoleonic France" (Fine Bird Books).