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This incredible two volume first edition work with 114 stipple engravings is Francois Levaillant & Jacques Barraband’s Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de paradis et des rolliers, suivie de celle des toucans et des barbus. The work was published in Paris by Denné le Jeune et Perlet between 1801 and 1806.
The volumes are bound in mauve shagreen, spines with raised bands and richly decorated: gilt fillets and large dentelle framing the boards, innter triple gilt fillet, triple gilt fillet on leading edges, gilt edges. This is Englinsh binding of the second half of the 19th century. The first volume has 56 plates and 154 pages of text. Volume 2 has 58 plates and 134 pages of text.
Barraband drew the original drawings for the work which contain such fine detail and marvelous beauty. Pérée and Gremilliet completed the engravings. They were printed in color and finished by hand by Langlois and Rousset. The plates were primarily printed in color – a remarkable feat for the early 1800s. The French master, Langlois, developed a superb technique to print in color called “a la poupee.” After the printing process was complete, each plate was carefully highlighted by hand.
François Le Vaillant (1753-1824) was an explorer, collector, and ornithologist. He was one of the most important figures in the history of ornithology. He predominantly studied in Metz were he met Jean-Baptiste Bécoeur who taugh him how to preserve specimens. He met Jacob Temminck in 1780 in the Netherlands, which allowed him to study birds in their natural setting. He was a prolific producer of bird works, not to be overtaken until John Gould and John James Audubon. His collection, largely acquired by Temminck, is now at the Museum of Natural History of Leiden.
Jacques Barraband (1767-1809) was Le Vaillant’s friend and illustrator. He is considered to be one of the greatest ornithological artists. He studied at the drawing school of Aubusson Factory as well as the gobelins Factory of Paris (where he learned from Joseph Malaine). Napoleon Bonaparte also commissioned him as an artist.
Barraband and Levaillant collaborated on the best-known natural history work about parrots, Histoire Naturelle Des Perroquets. The pair would go on to collaborate on other great works including the one here, Histoire Naturelle Des Oiseaux Des Paradis et des Rolliers (Birds of Paradise) as well as Histoire Naturelle des Promerops (Toucans).