JOHANNES MLLER (1752-1824)
Die Säugthiere, parts I and II. -Die Wald und Land Vögel. -Sperlingartige Sing Vögel. -Schwimmvögel und Stelzenläufer. MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER. Nördlingen: 1792-94 . 5 volumes, 4° (235 x 208mm). Manuscript title to each volume, 913 ORIGINAL DRAWINGS in black chalk and bodycolour and 311 coloured engravings, manuscript captions in German to almost all illustrations, a further 51 manuscript leaves of explanatory text. Title to Birds vol. III torn without loss, numerous short tears without loss or light marginal fraying, tears into image in about 20 leaves without loss and in about 10 with loss, spotting, usually light but heavier in text leaves, occasional staining, light soiling, occasional ink burn, writing on versos sometimes bleeding to recto, some pencil scribbles.) Near-contemporary marbled paper boards, red edges (rubbed, a few splits and wear at spine and corners, some repairs at spine, one cover slightly loose).
JOHANNES MLLER. Two original drawings in black chalk, pen and grey ink on paper, of the artist (presumably a self-portrait), Johannes Mller, and his wife, Anna Margretha Mller, both figures in profile full-length and with head in silhouette, Johannes at his work painting birds, each drawing inscribed with the subject's name, age (46 and 48, respectively) and dated 1798. A later hand gives their birth years (1752 and 1750) and Anna Margretha's date of death (1820), window-mounted (285 x 195mm in mount), a pair.
This impressive series of five natural history albums was created by Johannes Mller, an artist from Nördlingen. They show Mller as a keen natural historian, familiar with all the major literature, including some quite recent publications. They are classified by type, the mammals following the Linnean system; the captions give identifications and other descriptive notes. Original drawings are interspersed with coloured engravings drawn principally from two sources: a German edition of Buffon's Histoire naturelle (Nissen ZBI 709) and Naturgeschichte der Vögel (1772-1809, Nissen VB 159). As Mller states in his brief preface to the Mammals, the drawings are taken and illuminated, often in haste, from Schreber's natural history, and the copper-engravings from Buffon's Historie der Natur, specially printed at Leipzig in 1788 for the artist and other nature lovers. These albums probably also formed a working art reference source for Mller, whose own published work included Die vorzglichsten Singvögel (1799-1800).
Mller's acknowledgment of his debt to Schreber in the volumes on mammals is significant. J.C.D. Schreber, whose Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen (1774) was the most comprehensive work on mammals of its time, began his work by copying the illustrations in Buffon by the artists de Sève and Buvée l'Amériquain, just as Mller does in these volumes. In the volumes devoted to birds, Mller has drawn on works by Pennant and Pallas, on a Mr. Guetler's Cabinet, and the travels of Captain Cook, as well as by Adam Wirsung (Sammlungen von Nestern und Eyern, 1767-86) and John Latham, whose work had only very recently been published in Germany (Allgemeine Übersicht der Vögel, 1792-98), issued, probably not coincidently, by the same publishers who were to publish Mller's work a few years later. At least one illustration is drawn from nature by Mller, and it shows detailed observation and fine rendering, and attests to his artistic, as well as scientific, skill. A fourth volume (volume I) of birds apparently originally formed part of the set, since it is cited in the index. It obviously was separated from the set at an early date, as the spine labels on the near-contemporary bindings, which number the volumes I-III, attest.
The watercolours and plates are distributed as follows: Mammals, parts 1 and 2: 238 copper-engravings from a German edition of Buffon's Histoire Naturelle (Allgemeine Historie der Natur, Hamburg/Leipzig, 1750-82) with descriptions by L.J.M. Daubenton, coloured by hand, and an additional 181 original drawings after Schreber. Vol. II, Wood and Country Birds: 61 hand-coloured copper-engravings by J.D. Philippin and others from a German edition of Buffon's Histoire Naturelle des oiseaux (Naturgeschichte der Vögel, Berlin: 1772-1809), and an additional 272 original drawings, all but one in bodycolour. Vol. III, Starlings and Songbirds: 11 handcoloured copper-engravings from Buffon as vol. II and an additional 251 original drawings. Vol. IV, Waterbirds: 1 hand-coloured engraving from Buffon and an additional 209 original drawings after Pennant, Pallas, and from Guetler's Cabinet, all but 2 in bodycolour. Bound in is a booklet of 4 leaves containing drawings by Johann Friedrich Mller, 1813, of roses, an apple, pear, caterpillars and a butterfly (one leaf torn), and a drawing of Gustav Friedrich Mller. (7)