LEVAILLANT, François (1753-1824). Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de paradis et des rolliers, suivie de celle des toucans et des barbus. Paris: Denné le jeune and Perlet, [1801-] 1806.
3 volumes (including vol. of uncoloured plates), 2° (594 x 440mm). Half-titles. 114 FINE PLATES AFTER JACQUES BARRABAND, 5 folding, etched by Bouquet, Grémilliet and Pérée, printed by Langlois and Rousset, IN TWO STATES: UNCOLOURED, AND PRINTED IN COLOURS AND FINISHED BY HAND. (Light dampstain to outer margin of uncoloured plates, small repaired tear to plate 27 volume II.)
Histoire naturelle des pomerops, et des guêpiers.. Paris: Denné le jeune, 1807. Part work only (bound at ends of vol.II and the uncoloured-plate vol.): title, half-title, 36pp. text, 21 plates only (of 83), 17 in two states, 4 in uncoloured state only, all after Barraband. (Light marginal dampstains.)
Near-contemporary French light-brown calf-backed marbled boards, spines gilt (light scuffing to extremities).
A FINE UNCUT COPY OF THE LARGE-PAPER ISSUE OF THE FIRST EDITION, WITH THE PLATES IN TWO STATES with the addition of a small section of the subsequently issued Histoire Naturelle des promerops, et des guêpiers. The superiority of the large-paper copies is most evident when comparing the coloured plates; they are clearly executed with much more care and attention to Barraband's originals, and the wide margins are aesthetically much more pleasing. The difference in the uncut measurements of the two formats is quite striking: 594 x 440mm. as opposed to 535 x 350mm, (cf.Shäfer copy, Sothebys 27 June 1995, lot 130) The two works form the last work on exotic birds issued by Levaillant. Ronsil considered it to be unequalled among French bird books. The illustrations after Barraband are superb and the first work includes 24 plates of Birds of Paradise; 15 of Rollers; 17 of Jays; 18 of Toucans; 24 of Barbets; 5 of Tamatias; 3 of Barbacous; 8 of Jacamars. Levaillant, the son of the French consul in Dutch Guiana, was born in Paramarimbo and seems to have inherited his father's love of travel. He was one of the first of a new breed of naturalists who achieved prominence towards the end of the 18th century and studied and recorded birds in their natural habitat. He was arguably the greatest and certainly the most prolific producer of comprehensive high-quality bird books of his time. Jacques Barraband (1767 or 1768-1809), a pupil of Joseph Malaine (1745-1809), worked as a draughtsman at the Gobelins factory and decorated the dining-room of Napoleon's chateau at Saint-Cloud. However, his work for Levaillant undoubtedly marks the high point of his career and makes clear why he was considered the best ornithological artist of his generation. Barraband's relatively early death and the work of Audubon and Gould have perhaps prevented him from being placed alongside his contemporary Redouté, as one of the greatest natural history artists of all time. The technical brilliance of Langlois and Rousset's colour-printing capture perfectly the precision and beauty of the gouache and watercolour originals. Nissen IVB 559, cf.560; Fine Bird Books p.90, cf.p.91; Anker 304, cf.305; Zimmer p.393; Wood p.434; Ronsil p.298; Brunet III.1033. (3)