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.
2 volumes, 2° (517 x 341mm). 113 etched plates after Jacques Barraband by Bouquet, Grémilliet, and Perée, printed in colours by Langlois and Rousset and finished by hand (of 114, lacking plate I/46), 6 folding. Half-title in vol. I and small slip cancelling plate no. on text of I/p. 15. (Some variable spotting and browning, occasional marking, many plates trimmed on outer margin, sometimes affecting captions, lacking vol. II half-title, a few plates with short marginal tears, causing marginal loss on one.) Contemporary straight-grained red morocco gilt, boards with borders of triple gilt fillets enclosing broad palmette rolls in blind, panelled in gilt, roll-tooled gilt turn-ins, spines gilt in compartments, lettered in 2, others elaborately panelled, gilt edges (some marking and scuffing, rebacked retaining original spines). Provenance: Their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Michael of Kent (bookplates).
A 'MAGNIFICENT WORK' (Wood). The spectacular plates of exotic birds which illustrate Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de paradis owe much to the remarkable gifts of Jacques Barraband (1767-1809), who was 'considered among the best bird artists of the time [whose] work for Le Vaillant was the climax of his career' (C. Jackson, Dictionary of Bird Artists of the World, Woodbridge: 1999, p.148). Levaillant had trained as a draughtsman at the Gobelins tapestry factory, and then worked as a ceramic artist, supplying drawings to the Sévres factory in 1806, and an ornithological artist, illustrating the works of Levaillant and others.
Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de paradis was issued in 19 parts between 1801 and 1806, and copies were published with the plates in 2 states: coloured and uncoloured, before letters. The numbering of the plates varies in this set from that given by the bibliographies. These variations suggest that the erroneous numerals on some of the plates may have been modified shortly after completion of publication, and that this set is a later issue, employing the corrected plates and coloured copies of the plates before letters. The title-pages of this set do not bear the monogram or the phrase 'Libraire de S.A.I. le Prince Joseph' after Denné's name found in other sets, demonstrating that they exist in at least two states. The numbering is as follows (some plates are before letters and numbered in square brackets): I. 1; 3; 2; 4-11; ; 12; [14-17]; 18-19; 21; 20; 22-24; ; 26; ; 28-31; 32; ; 34-36; [37-38]; 39; 41; 40; 42-45; 47-56; II. 1; [2-6]; 7-12; [13-18]; 19-20; 22; 21; 23-37; A; 38-43; 45; 44; 46-57 (plate II/A with the accompanying text leaf paginated 85-86 is bound after plate II/37, as the page numbers indicate and Ronsil and Zimmer call for). Anker 304; Fine Bird Books p. 118; Nissen IVB 559; Ronsil 1780; Wood p. 434; Zimmer p. 393. (2)