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Item #39389 Catalogue Systematique et Raisonne des curiosites ... de M. Dávila. Pedro Franco DAVILA, J B. L. de Rome de L'Isle.
Catalogue Systematique et Raisonne des curiosites ... de M. Dávila.

Catalogue Systematique et Raisonne des curiosites ... de M. Dávila.

Paris: Briasson, 1767. 8vo, 3 vols. (7 11/16 x 4 5/8 inches). [36], 571; [6], 656; [6], 290, 286, [1] pp. 30 engraved plates (some folding).

Contemporary half calf and marbled boards, spines in six compartments with raised bands, ruled and lettered in gilt, with armorial crests in two compartments, red edges.

First and only edition of this comprehensive catalog of the Parisian curiosity collection of Pedro Dávila.

Pedro Franco Dávila was born in Guayaquil in present-day Peru and studied natural sciences in Lima before moving to Paris in 1740. He took an interest in collecting around that time, and, over the course of 20 years, he amassed the largest collection of natural history specimens in all of Paris. He sought to preserve it by establishing an institution in Spain, but after King Carlos III rejected his request, Dávila was forced to put the collection up for auction to settle the debts he incurred in building it. The Dávila catalogue, as it became known, was prepared as a sale catalogue when he sold the collection off in Paris prior to returning to his native Peru. Considering the size of the collection, the sale became one of the major auction events of that time period, and the catalogue was distributed widely in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Basel. The catalogue describes 8,096 mineral specimens from a broad range of places, including Canada, Mexico, and Paraguay. It further describes over 12,000 prints and engravings, 1,741 original artworks, 441 maps, plus various scientific instruments and precious stones. It also lists 5,253 shells, 600 preserved animals, 101 plants, 3,915 fossils, 154 bezoars and calculi, and 402 books. "Dávila had already written many descriptions, but it was his introduction through Balthasar Sage to the young Romé de l'Isle that created this remarkable record of the collection. Romé de l'Isle took the existing material, added considerably to the mineralogical descriptions, and put the catalog into publishable form. In this task he was assisted by Abbé Duguat who helped with the mineralogical descriptions and Abbé Gua de Malves [1712-1786] who described the shells. Through their efforts, two volumes describing natural history specimens were produced, one of which was entirely devoted to minerals. In addition, a third volume written by Romé de l'Isle probably with assistance from Pierre Remy, describes the fossils, artwork and books. "The published catalog provides a detailed insight into his collection, his special tastes and preferences. The major value of the collection lay in its superb mineral specimens, many of which were finely crystallized examples. Romé de l'Isle fully described the many fine mineralogical specimens, which included examples of native silver from Norway, cassiterite from the Dutch East Indies, crocoite from Siberia, pyrite from Columbia, and calcite from Saxony, etc." (The Mineralogical Record). Dávila was able to make more than enough to pay off his creditors and subsequently began to amass a second collection. Within three years, in October 1771, King Carlos III agreed to accept this second collection, and Dávila became the founder and first director of the Royal Cabinet of Natural History of Madrid (now known as the National Museum of Natural Sciences), where his specimens are still located today.

Nissen ZBI 1050; Wilson 209; Conlon 67:1238; Sinkankas 1594.

Item #39389

Price: $6,850.00