Jean-Baptiste Audebert (1759-1800) and Louis-Jean-Pierre Vieillot (1748-1831)
Oiseaux Dors ou reflets mtalliques. I. Histoire naturelle et gnrale des colibris, oiseaux-mouches, jacamars et promerops. II. Des grimpreaux et des oiseaux de paradis. Paris: Crapelet for Desray, [1800-]1802. 2 volumes, large 2 (509 x 334mm). TITLES AND ALL LETTERPRESS TEXT IN GOLD, 2 pp. subscriber's list, half-titles and section titles. 190 FINE ENGRAVED PLATES, PRINTED IN COLOURS WITH CAPTIONS IN GOLD after and by Audebert, one double-page, many heightened with gold, printed by Langlois. (Occasional light spotting or old dampstaining.) BOUND FOR THE DUCHESSE DE BERRY BY RENE SIMIER. Blue straight-grained morocco gilt, the covers with elaborate wide panelled border of fillets and roll-tools in gilt and blind, the innermost panel with highly elaborate arabesque corner-pieces composed from massed small tools and a large central lozenge shape containing the centrally-placed arms of the duchesse de Berry (Olivier 2554 fer 2, largest format), spines in five unequal compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second and fourth, the others with overall decoration in gilt and blind centered around larger fleur-de-lys tools, wide gilt turn-ins with dusty-salmon-pink watered-silk liners and doublures bordered in gilt, g.e., lettered 'Simier Rel. du Roi' at foot of spine of vol.I (very neatly recornered and rebacked with majority of old spines laid down). Provenance: MARIE-CAROLINE-FERDINANDE-LOUISE DE BOURBON-SICILE, THE DUCHESSE DE BERRY (1798-1870, binding); George John, 5th Lord Vernon (1803-1866, by descent, sale: Sothebys 4 June 1928 sold 225 to:); Dr. Borenius (?Tancred Borenius).
A VERY FINE COPY OF 'ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOKS OF ITS ERA' (Fine Bird Books) IN ITS RAREST AND MOST DESIRABLE FORM, BOUND BY A MASTER-CRAFTSMAN FOR ONE OF THE GREATEST LIBRARIES OF THE TIME.
ONE OF 12 COPIES IN FOLIO PRINTED IN GOLD THROUGHOUT. ONLY TWO COPIES ARE RECORDED AT AUCTION THIS CENTURY: one incomplete sold in New York (Parke-Bernet 21 March 1944 lot 47, sold $500, lacking 5 plates), and a copy in a Bozerian binding was offered in these rooms (30 April 1997 lot 2). It is generally believed that only 12 copies were printed in gold, a number perhaps suggested by the 12 names of dignitaries which head the subscriber list. There may have been fewer, since in his preface, Audebert states only that 'quelques exemplaires' were printed in gold instead of ink. Having used a considerable quantity of gold on the plates to imitate the natural reflective quality of the hirds plummage, he conceived the idea of printing the text in gold as well. The plates have been considered 'little less than hand illuminated engravings' and the luminosity of the gold-printed text contributes substantially to the beauty of the work. 200 copies were also available in folio with just the captions printed in gold. One hundred copies, large 4, were printed on papier vlin with both the text and the captions printed in black. The selection process used by the authors, at first, appears quite random and the work 'approaches monographic status in the modern sense only in respect to the humming-birds... and jacamars' (Mengel). However, as Anker points out the 'colours of the birds and their handsome appearance have evidently been the cause of their selection for inclusion in the book. The plates with the bird portraits are in beautiful colours; in this respect they are among the best colour prints found in ornithology'. To quote from Fine Bird Books 'it is the gold reflections of the plumage that renders this book unique and wonderful'. The work was issued in 32 parts over 26 months and is divided into 10 sections or sub-sections, the general title being taken from the half-titles. The plates were etched by Audebert from his own designs and those of 'les plus belles peintres de Paris et de Londres'. Louis Bouquet assisted with the colouring, and Langlois with the printing in oil-colours. The whole process used in the printing of the plates was invented by Audebert, part of which involved the use of pin-hole registration marks which are visible at opposing corners of many of the plates. These pin-holes were possibly employed when printing the gold captions. The text is largely by Vieillot who continued the work using Audebert's notes after the latter's death in 1800.
The duchesse de Berry was the daughter of Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies. Throughout her life she was a patron of the arts, with an enthusiasm for books, and in particular for the great natural history works that were so much a feature of her era. Olivier describes her suberb library at the chteau of Rosny as 'une luxeuse bibliothque remarquable tant par les choix des ditions et la richesse des relieures que par l'importance des manuscripts qu'elle renfermait' (note to fer 2519). At the age of 18 she married the duc de Berry, second son of the future Charles X. Her husband was assasinated at the Opra in 1820, and the duchesse, a widow at the age of 22, devoted herself to her two children. After her envolvement in a failed uprising in the Vende in 1832, the duchesse was confined in the citadel of Blaye until 1833. After her release, she was ostracized by the French Royal family, who took charge of the upbringing of her son. She initially moved to Venice, but died in 1870 at the castle of the Brunnsee in Styria, Austria.
De Ricci notes that 'In the late 'thirties, Payne and Foss helped the fifth Lord Vernon (1808-1866), who had succeded to the title in 1835, to build up a choice library' (English Collectors of Books & Manuscripts, 1969, p.115). The present work would have undoubtedly been one of the main treasures in his collection, indeed, when a large part of the library was sold on during Lord Vernon's lifetime, the present work was one of a selection of books that was kept.
Anker 14; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.73; Mengel 93; Nissen IVB 47; Zimmer 17. (2)