Louis-Marie-Auguste Boutan (1859-1934)
Mission Scientifique Permanente d'Exploration en Indo-Chine. Hanoi: F.H. Schneider, 1905-1907. 11 parts in three volumes (all published), royal 8° (278 x 184mm). General title, various section or decade titles. 118 hand-coloured plates on rice-paper mounted, after Dang-ngoc-Quan, Phuc or Dang-cao-Doa, 2 uncoloured plates mounted, 28 mounted photographs by Duport and others. Uniform red morocco-backed marbled boards, spines in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in gilt in the second and third, original pink card upper wrappers bound in, t.e.g.
A VERY FINE COMPLETE SET OF THIS RARE NATURAL HISTORY OF VIETNAM. The parts are variously limited to 200 or 250 copies, this set number 13, most signed by or with the signature stamp of Louis Boutan. The majority of both text and plates are of ornithological interest.
This unusual work, the first western attempt at a systematic natural history of Vietnam, was organised by the French naturalist Louis-Marie-Auguste Boutan. Boutan was a generalist who first made his mark in 1879-1880 when he travelled to Australia to organise the French section in the exhibition held in Melbourne. He also took the opportunity to study the effect of Phylloxera on the Australian vines, the flora in the Torres strait and molluscs which produced pearls and mother-of-pearl. In 1892 he went to the Red Sea to continue his observations of molluscs, and in 1893 to the area around Banyuls to observe and to explore underwater with the aid of a diving-suit (he here inaugurated the technique of underwater artifical lighting and underwater photography). The mission to Vietnam lasted from 1904-1908 where, despite having to set up a research station from scratch, Boutan found time to study the local species of monkeys, the parasites which affected the coffee plant, and local fishing methods and also to continue to his studies of molluscs. From 1910 until his retirement in 1929 he occupied various posts in France and Algeria. He died at Tighzirt-sur-Mer in April 1934.
The mission was unusual in employing local artists to produce the excellent coloured plates which combine accuracy with the subtle combination of line, composition and colour which is so characteristic of Eastern tradition. The plates are apparently coloured from the artists's originals with only the faintest of lithographic outlines for the guidance of the colourists. In consequence the resulting images have the appearance of original watercolours. The plates are divided as follows: Décades Zoologiques... Oiseaux. Hanoi: F.H. Schneider, 1905-1907. 9 parts in 2 volumes. 2 uncoloured plates, 97 hand-coloured plates on 90 leaves, after Dang-ngoc-Quan (76), Phuc (13) and ?others, on 'rice' paper mounted, and 2 mounted photographs; Mammifières. Hanoi: 1906. 1 part. 3 hand-coloured plates after Dang-ngoc-Quan, on rice-paper mounted, 22 mounted photographs by Duport and ?others, all on 10 leaves; Reptiles. Hanoi: 1906. 1 part. 8 hand-coloured plates after Dang-ngoc-Quan, on rice paper mounted (7 with onset photographs of diagrammatic details), 4 mounted photographs on 2 leaves, by Duport and ?others; Décades Botaniques. Hanoi: 1906. 1 part. 10 hand-coloured plates after Dang-cao-Doa, on rice-paper mounted.
BM(NH) Suppl. p.504; Nissen ZBI 4603; IVB 226; Ronsil 359; Wood p.314; Yale/Ripley 122.