7 - 8 April 2004
[TYSON, Edward (1650-1708)]. Phocaena, or the Anatomy of a Porpess, dissected at Gresham Colledge: with a praeliminary discourse concerning anatomy, and a natural history of animals. London: printed for Benjamin Tooke, 1680.
4° (210 x 163mm). Errata slip pasted onto verso of C2. 2 folding etched plates after Robert Hooke. 20th-century calf, tooled in blind, lettered in gilt.
FIRST EDITION OF THIS RARE WORK: 'TYSON'S FIRST MAJOR CONTRIBUTION IN COMPARATIVE ANATOMY' (DSB). No copy of this work is listed as having sold at auction in the past twenty-five years. 'A full quarter of... [the work] is devoted to "A Preliminary Discourse Concerning Anatomy and a Natural History of Animals," in which Tyson presents his ideas on the importance of comparative anatomy and gives an outline for a proposed history of animals. Tyson criticizes the earlier encyclopaedic style of natural history, which placed more emphasis on the authors than on the natural objects. He argues for beginning with simplest animals and ascending through each of the tribes of animals.... Tyson thinks his "Porpess" is the transitional link between the fishes and the land quadrupeds. This "Preliminary Discourse" contains a clear expression of the principles and methodology of comparative anatomy... Tyson well recognized that before a general natural history of animals could be written there had to be an accumulation of observations and descriptions of many different kinds of animals. The starting point for such a project should be very good descriptions of representative animals... He thought his description of the "Porpess" might serve as the representative of the cetaceans. Through arrangements made by [Robert] Hooke... Tyson was able to dissect the dolphin in November 1679.' (DSB XIII,p.526). Tyson's careful examination and scrupulous note-taking allied with Hooke's excellent drawings, ensured that the present work not only provided an accurate and important description of a mammal that had not been described in detail before, but also acted as a template for future studies in comparative anatomy. Wing T-3599.
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