After Comte de Buffon and others. Plate 854. “Le Vanneau gris.” Gray peewit. From Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux.
Paris, [1749-1804]. 9 x 8 (image). Engraving by Martinet. Original hand-coloring. Old manuscript ink below title. Else, very good condition.
The greatest name in France in the field of natural history during the eighteenth century was the Comte de Buffon (1707-1788). Known best in America as the target of Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia in which the patriotic American scholar argued against a theory that New World species were inferior, Buffon enjoys a much greater reputation in Europe. He was to France what Linnaeus was to Sweden, and he is best known as the first natural scientist to postulate that man evolved from apes.
His prints from his Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux, have a delicacy of drawing and engraving that has lead some to claim that they are the finest ever published. Buffon believed that there were between fifteen hundred and two thousand species of birds in the world, and he was in the forefront in attempting to name them. He usually gave them colloquial names and left the classification with Latin titles to be done by others. Drawn by Buffon and other artists, these prints were engraved and hand-colored by Martinet.
Other birds from this series: