VIEILLOT, Louis Jean Pierre (1748-1831). Histoire naturelle des plus beaux Oiseaux Chantiers de la zone torride. Paris: J.E. Gabriel Dufour, 1805-1809.
2° (514 x 330mm). Letterpress title, 4pp. plan de l'ouvrage, 14pp. introduction, 73 ORIGINAL BODYCOLOUR PAINTINGS ON VELLUM by Jean Gabriel Prêtre, each 279 x 229mm and inlaid to size on full vellum sheets, each drawing with single thick gold-ruled border, several paintings heightened in silver, 43 signed by Prêtre, small pencil markings at lower right corners of each drawing noting page numbers for the binder, endpaper and interleaves to each watercolour on J.Whatman Turkey Mill paper, dated 1831. (Lacking half-title, some light discolouration on the verso of a few drawings, slight cockling of the text and vellum leaves; title, last few leaves of text, and 2pp. table lightly spotted). Early-19th century green morocco, gilt covers with wide dentelle floral borders, gilt turn-ins, gilt edges. Provenance: Marie-Caroline-Ferdinande-Louise de Bourbon-Sicile, Duchesse de Berry (note in Payne and Foss Acquisitions list p.91 'From the library of the duchesse de Berri' presumably Evans sale, 1831) - Beriah Botfield (cost £42 from Payne and Foss).
A SUMPTUOUS COPY OF VIEILLOT'S WORK ON TROPICAL SONG BIRDS, MAGNIFICENTLY ILLUSTRATED WITH THE ORIGINAL PAINTINGS BY PRêTRE. On March 21st 1831 Evans offered at auction in London a portion of the Duchesse de Berry's library under the title "catalogue of the splendid library of an illustrious foreign personage". This copy appears to have been rebound either for the Evans auction (endleaves watermarked 1831) or soon afterwards by Payne and Foss with the drawings inlaid and mounted to size. The binding is similar to the work of Wright or Lewis. The work includes a 6pp. manuscript description in French and English, presumably by Payne and Foss. Vieillot, who wrote the text, was born in Yuelot and came to Paris as a cleric. His interest in ornithology, led him to spend many years in Santo Domingo studying birds. He returned to Paris in the 1790s, working on many projects with Buffon, Oudart and Audebert. This work focuses on exotic song birds, tropical finches, weaver birds and tanagers, particularly from Bengal and Senegal, presumably using collections of skins recently brought back to Paris from these colonies. Jean Gabriel Prêtre (fl. 1800-1850) was a Swiss artist who came to Paris around 1800 and became an accomplished ornithological artist, as these drawings show. He contributed to work by Dumont d'Urville and Baron Temminck. This series of paintings includes all the 72 images transferred to the etched plates, with an additional painting of Le Pape (a Painted Bunting or Emberiza Ceris) commonly found in North America. Prêtre also collaborated with Vieillot on his Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de l'Amérique septentrionale from 1807-09, but this drawing is not related to that publication. The published engraved plates show only minor variations to these paintings, and these are mainly confined to the details on the branches.
The Duchesse de Berry formed one of the great Natural History collections in France in the early 19th-century. She was a patron to many artists, studied botanical drawing under Redouté and collected widely, favouring the finest bindings, original drawings and paintings. This copy of Vieillot with the original paintings is very much of the quality that she collected, and may well have been purchased directly from the artist. Vieillot was a particular favourite of Duchesse de Berry who seems to have owned all his works in de luxe issues, many bound by Simier. Many of the Duchesse de Berry books in the Bofield Library can be traced directly to the 1831 Evans sale, offered to the market the year after she had been exiled from France with her father in law Charles X. Part of her library at Rosny went with her in exile to Italy and later to Brunnensee, Switzerland. It seems likely, that as money had to be raised, she arranged for some books to be shipped to England in 1830. In 1832 she returned to France to canvas support for a counter-revolution to secure the throne for her son. She was arrested in Nantes, imprisoned and later released. For the printed work Anker 514; Fine Bird Books 112; Nissen IVB 956; Zimmer, p.654.