GEOFFROY-SAINT-HILAIRE, Étienne (1772-1844) and Frédéric CUVIER (1773-1838). Histoire naturelle des mammifères avec des figures originales, coloriées, dessinées d'après des animaux vivants. Paris: A. Belin, -1824-.
72 livraisons bound in 5 volumes, 2° (506 x 336mm). 431 (of 432) hand-coloured lithographic plates by J.C. Werner after de Wailly, Huet, Maréchal, Saulnier, and Werner, printed by A. Belin, Brégeaut & Cie, Delaporte, Langlumé, and C. de Lasteyrie, some heightened with gum arabic. (Variable spotting, browning, and offsetting, some text leaves and plates heavily browned, lacking half-titles and Cuvier's introduction, plate of the 'Cerp' with small hole not affecting image.) Contemporary green morocco gilt by Charles Lewis, the covers with borders of stag-and-hound, floral, and foliate rolls, and gilt fillets, board edges ruled in gilt, turn-ins gilt with rules and floral rolls, the spines gilt in compartments, lettered in 2, the others densely decorated with floral, foliate and other tools, gilt edges (covers lightly damp-marked).
A HANDSOMELY BOUND COPY of 'un des ouvrages les plus exacte et les mieux exécuté que l'on ait encore donné sur les mammifères' (Brunet). Étienne Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire studied first theology and then law as a young man, but his scientific interests led him to medicine, and thence on to botany and zoology. In 1793 he became a sous-garde and sous-démonstrateur at the Jardin des Plantes, which led to his elevation, at the age of 21, to one of 12 newly-created chairs as Professor of Zoology for Vertebrate 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 celebrated older 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 two collaborators published five 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 two 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 the Rossetta Stone and other artefacts. 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 sciences naturelles (Paris: 1816-1830) and wrote numerous articles and some fourteen books, including Des Dents de mammifères considérées comme charactères zoologiques (Paris: 1825). Some of 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 ... described 'approximately 500 species... (about 100 were known slightly)' (DSB III, p.521), and provides a lasting record of the scientific and curatorial work of these two remarkable natural historians, who were the principal proponents in France, both theoretically and practically, of the systematic study of mammals. It was published in 70 livraisons between 1818 and 1837; these 70 were followed by a further 2 supplementary livraisons in 1842, edited and seen through the presses by Cuvier's son. It is a rare work in its complete form, presumably due to the lengthy period of publication, and only three other copies complete with all 72 livraisons are recorded by ABPC since 1975. The present copy is bound systematically (rather than in order of publication), following the 'Table générale et méthodique' bound in after the title of volume I, and contains 431 plates. Copies are known with both 431 and 432 plates, again possibly due to amendments made in the course of publication -- the 'Table générale et méthodique' calls for 431 plates, and notes of plate no. 303 (the Tapir d'Inde) that 'La figure de cette espèce, qui a été donnée dans la 4e livraison, n'étant pas suffisament exacte, il en a été donné, dans la 60e livraison, une autre [...] La première doit donc être supprimée et remplacée par la seconde' (p.4). It is therefore possible that in copies with 432 plates this substitution has not been made, and that both plates have been included. BM(NH) II, p.656; Brunet II, 1535-1536 (calling for 432 plates); Nissen ZBI 1525 (calling for '430 [432?]' plates); Wood p.354 (calling for 431 plates). (5)