(Paris: Chez l'Auteur & H. J. Jansen, 1797-). 535 x 355 mm. (21 x 14"). 4 p.l. (half title and title gathering, present in both the cancellans and cancellanda forms), iv, 24, 4, 4, 10, 4, 8, 8, 24, 14, 8, 10, 8, 44 pp. 10 original parts (livraisons). FIRST EDITION.
UNBOUND AS ISSUED IN ORIGINAL PRINTED PAPER WRAPPERS, all contained within a recent black morocco-backed clamshell box, lettered in gilt. WITH 63 FINE PLATES, 61 PRINTED IN COLORS AND FINISHED BY HAND, two uncolored anatomical plates, and EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED WITH SEVEN DUPLICATE PLATES, each with contemporary manuscript note at foot—perhaps in Audebert's hand—reading "Model[e] 2 [or 3-6] Liv[raison]." Perhaps a third of the plates with small pinholes to margins (see below). Nissen ZBI 156; Wood, p. 206; Brunet I, 550. Half the paper wrappers soiled (as expected), but the other half (unexpectedly) quite clean, a dozen plates with expert repairs to blank margins, one section title with neatly repaired nine-inch horizontal tear (not affecting text), a number of other very trivial imperfections, but AN EXCEPTIONALLY FRESH AND CLEAN SURVIVAL, with vast margins and deep impressions of the type.
This is a remarkable copy in the very rare original parts of the first illustrated monograph devoted to primates, with additional annotated plates and markings that indicate this set was employed in the production process. The only work published under Audebert's name during his lifetime, "Natural History of Monkeys and Lemurs" was issued in 10 parts between 1797 and 1800 to 201 subscribers (63 individuals and 138 institutions) who, according to Brunet, paid the considerable sum of 300 francs. Born in Rochefort, France, Jean-Baptiste Audebert (1759-1800) trained to be a painter of miniatures, and in the process developed the skill of observing and incorporating small details about his subjects, an invaluable asset for a scientific illustrator. That talent is amply demonstrated here in the vitality of the images: the attention to tiny physical details that individualize the primates, particularly in the facial expressions, and the way Audebert seems to capture a moment in time, as one would with a photograph. Described by Brunet as "magnificently executed," the plates were engraved by Audebert and printed using a process he devised, substituting oil paint for the usual gouache and printing all the colors from one plate. The resulting plates have a depth and brilliance of color that is true to life, and that set a new standard for the medium. A significant number of the engravings here were once pinned around the edges to hold them taut for some purpose, likely connected to the color printing or hand-finishing. It is conceivable that these "pinned" plates—a number of which also bear small spatters of printer's ink—were working copies from the printer's workshop or "ideal" plates used to guide colorists; this could be a fruitful area for further research. Our copy also has variations in the text content, with the initial gathering present in two forms, the first being unrecorded in the bibliographies. (There is an additional anomaly in the text printing: the leaves signed I2 and O2, normally found bound as single leaves after signatures I and O, respectively, are here found as a single whole sheet, signed I2 followed by O2.) ABPC and RBH find no other complete copy in original parts; RBH does record the 1966 sale of a copy in parts, but with only 41 plates. (Lhi21105)
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PJP Catalog: Natural History.001