Franois Levaillant (1753-1824)
Histoire Naturelle des Perroquets. Paris: Levrault frères (later Levrault, Schoell & Co.) 1801-1805. 2 volumes, large 4° (334 x 255mm). Half-titles. 145 fine engraved plates after Jacques Barraband, printed in colours and finished by hand by Langlois under the direction of Bouquet, protected by tissue guards throughout. (Some unobtrusive browning or spotting to plates.) Light-brown half morocco, flat spine divided into six compartments by single fillets, red and green morocco lettering-pieces in the second and third compartments (neatly rebacked and recornered, inner hinges strengthened). Provenance: Louis-Albert Necker (1786-1861, Swiss naturalist, signature); Stefan Moricand (inscription dated 1827); Charles Morin (various pencilled notes, that at foot of plate 87 dated 1890).
FIRST EDITION OF ONE OF THE SCARCEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL OF LEVAILLANT'S WORKS, and arguably the greatest ornithological work to be published during the French golden age for illustrated large-format natural history works. 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 eighteenth century, studying and recording their subjects in their natural habitat. Barraband (1767 or 1768-1809), who received his initial training from Joseph Malaine (1745-1809), is recorded as having worked as a draughtsman at the Gobelins factory and exhibited at the Paris Salons from 1798-1806. He was considered the best ornithological artist of his time and the climax of his career was the work he carried out for Levaillant. Langlois interpreted Barraband's preparatory watercolour and gouache with great delicacy and the resultant engravings ably capture the precision and beauty of Barraband's 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 to the orders of Louis XIV. These were sent as presents to crowned heads, men of science, and learned bodies, in evidence of the splendour 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, p.11). Anker 303; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.118; Nissen IVB 558; Ronsil 1780; Wood p.434; Zimmer p.392. (2)