LESSON, René-Primevère (1794-1849)
Histoire Naturelle des Colibris, suivie d'un Supplement a L'Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux-Mouches
Paris: Rignoux Arthus Bertrand, [1830-1832]. Octavo. (9 x 5 3/4 inches). Half-title, title, section title, dedication to Baron Cuvier pp. 196. 66 plates (61 after J.-G. Prêtre, 5 after A.G. Bévalet; 51 by Coutant, 9 by Teillard), all printed by Rémond, finely hand-coloured and heightened with gum arabic.
Contemporary half red morocco-backed marble paper-covered boards, spine gilt in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in gilt in the second compartment, the others panelled in gilt, marbled endpapers.
First edition of this very important early monograph on Hummingbirds.
Wood notes that this work was offered 'in four printings varying as to quality of paper, character of type and colouring of the plates'. The present example is on the highest quality coloured paper, with beautifully printed text and plates showing a combination of coloured paper and very fine printing and finishing which allows the images to be seen in their finest form. The tone of the paper gives a depth to the colouring that is not present on the few plates printed on uncoloured paper, and extra care appears to have been taken over application of both the hand colouring and the varnish. The result is a truly spectacular series of plates in which the artist has achieved his aim of capturing the shimmering opalescent, almost metallic sheen of the living birds. The number of examples of the work printed in this way is not recorded in any of the standard bibliographies, but from information known about other issues of this work it is probably less than 25 and possibly no more than 5. This is Lesson's second work on humming-birds, a companion to his Histoire naturelle des oiseaux-mouches (Paris: 1829-1830). His two monographs formed the most comprehensive treatment of the family until John Gould published his work (between 1849 and 1887). However, his observations have the great advantage of in many cases being first hand: unlike Gould who never saw a humming-bird in the wild, Lesson was able to study these birds in their natural habitat during his voyage round the world aboard La Coquille.