GEOFFROY SAINT-HILAIRE, Étienne (1772-1844) and Frédéric CUVIER (1773-1838). Histoire naturelle des mammifères. Paris: A. Belin (volumes I-III) and A. Blaise (volume IV), -1837.
4 volumes, livraisons 1-70 (only, of 72), 2° (517/530 x 330/342mm). Titles and half-titles in vols I and II (lacking in III and IV), vol. I with 8-page 'Préface' and 2-page 'Advertissement', vols. I-III with 'Ordre méthodique' tables (only, lacking from IV). 418 (?of 430 or 432) hand-coloured lithographic plates heightened with gum arabic by A. Belin, Langlumé, C. de Lasteyrie et al. after de Wailly, Huet, C. Werner et al. (Variable spotting, occasional offsetting, and marking, some browning and dampstaining, a few plates in vol. IV with tissue guards tipped onto plates, lacking 2 leaves of text from liv. 62). Vols. I-III bound in contemporary calf by J. McLaren, Glasgow, boards with borders in blind, spines blind-tooled with gilt morocco lettering-pieces (rubbed and worn at extremities causing small losses and splits on joints); vol. IV bound in contemporary morocco-backed boards, upper board the original printed board of liv. 67 (extremities rubbed causing small losses and splitting on spine). Provenance: Faculty of Physicians & Surgeons, Glasgow (bookplates and shelfmarks, ink inscriptions on upper board of vol. IV, pencilled notes to binder throughout).
FIRST EDITION. 'UN DES OUVRAGES LES PLUS EXACTS ET LES MIEUX EXÉCUTÉS QUE L'ON AIT ENCORE DONNÉES SUR LES MAMMIFÈRES' (Brunet), the work of two of the most celebrated French zoologists of the period. Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire studied first theology and then law as a young man, but his scientific interests led him to medicine, and then on to botany and zoology. In 1793 he became a sous-garde and sous-demonstrateur at the Jardin de Plantes, which led to his promotion, at the age of 21, to Professor of Zoology for Vertebrated 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. In 1795 Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire invited the then-unknown Georges Cuvier (the elder 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 contained 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 in Egypt, and assembled a cabinet of specimens which was deposited at the Muséum d'Histoire naturelle, following his return to France in 1801. In 1804, Frédéric Cuvier joined the museum as keeper of the menagerie, where, in addition to co-writing the Histoire naturelle des mammifères, he wrote numerous articles and some 14 books. Perhaps his most original and important studies were those on the intelligence of primates and the social interactions between various species of mammals.
Histoire naturelle des mammifères provides a lasting monument to the scientific and curatorial work of these two scientists, who were the principal architects, both theoretically and practically, of the systematic study of mammals in France. The work was published in 70 livraisons between 1818 and 1837 (those present here), 'in which approximately 500 species were described (about 100 were known slightly)' (DSB III, p.521); following Frédéric Cuvier's death in 1838, a further two supplementary livraisons were issued in 1839 and 1842, edited by Cuvier's son. In this set, the livraisons comprising the first three volumes have been bound in the order in which they were issued, and the last volume has been bound according to the classifications given by Cuvier; therefore, the plates of the 'Écureuil d'Hudson. Variété albine' and the 'Kevel gris femelle' are bound in vol. IV and not with their texts in vol. III, and five plates in vol. IV lack text which was issued in livraisons 71 and 72. BM(NH) II, p.656; Brunet II, cols.1535-1536; Nissen ZBI 1525; Wood p.354. (4)