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Papillons d'Europe, Peints d'apres Nature

Paris: Delaguette ... Basan & Poignant, 1779-1792. 8 vols, quarto. 3 engraved titles (2 hand coloured), engraved dedication, 3 uncolored plates, 334 (of 342) hand coloured engraved plates, and 8 hand-coloured Supplemental plates, after Jean-Jacques Ernst and others. Lacks volume 8, text pp. 89-157 and the corresponding 16 plates numbered 327-342 [see below]. The supplementary plates (numbered I-V, VII-IX) laid in.

Contemporary tree calf, spines gilt, rose endpapers

One of the most beautiful works about butterflies ever published.

This authoritative work, among the most desirable illustrated works on butterflies, was commissionned by Jean Baptiste Francois Gigot d'Orcy (1733-1793), a patron of natural history and particularly of entomology and mineralogy. His wealth permitted him to build lavish and expensive collections of insects and minerals, and to support the publication of the present work on butterflies. The text was written under his direction by Engramelle, an Augustinian monk, and the plates were prepared mostly by the Alsatian artist Jean Jacques Ernst and the Frankfurt painter Marie Eleonora Hochecker (1761-1834).

Published in twenty-nine fascicules, the first appeared in 1779 and the final one in 1793, at the time of the Reign of Terror. The entire publication consisted of 8 volumes, comprising a total of 350 colored plates, illustrating about 3000 specimens. The specimens were drawn, etched and coloured by artists including Ernst, Hochecker, Desfontaines, Dovilliers, Juillet, Swebach, Gérardin, and Staignand. All the plates are superbly hand-coloured (except three describing the necessary equipment to catch and mount butterflies, uncolored as issued).

Only 250 sets were printed by subscription, including sets for the Kings of France, Spain, and Sweden, followed by notables and famous scholars of the time. Given the lengthy publication history, many sets are incomplete. Like the Lord Hesketh set (sold Sotheby's London 7 December 2010, £21,250), this example without the rare final fascicule of the eighth volume; i.e. complete to 1792, with the final sixteen plates being published the following year. The story of the discovery of the Supplemental plates, present here, is told in full in by R. Homberg "Some unknown plates in Ernst and Engramelles Papillons dEurope" in:Archives of Natural History III, (1953), pp. 28ff.

Nissen, ZBI 1300; Horn-Schenkling, 6051; Graesse II, 498; Brunet II 1048-1049.

Item #36341

Price: $18,500.00

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