Coq-de-Roche, et al.

Coq-de-Roche, et al.
from Ornithologie, ou Méthode contenant la division...
by Mathurin-Jacques Brisson

metal engraving/etching

Hill Collection — 18th c. French authors & artists

In France two exceedingly influential ornithologists of the 18th century were Mathurin Jacques Brisson [1723-1806] and Georges Louis Leclerc de Buffon [1707-1788]. While the two men differed greatly in their views and approach, both aimed to systematize and relate their findings to the larger laws of nature and to raise basic questions concerning the natural order of the universe. Comprehensive information, derived by using empirical methods and presented by means of extensive descriptions and accurate illustrations, was their goal. Both men sought to lay a foundation for a more scientific approach to ornithology.

A copy of Brisson's six-volume Ornithologie, issued in 1760, appears in the Hill Collection. Buffon's Histoire naturelle des oiseaux (1770-1785) formed volumes 16 to 24 of his Histoire naturelle générale et particulière (1749-1804). Several editions of that 44-volume work are available in the History of Science Collections, including the nine volumes on birds.

As the 18th century drew to a close, it was apparent that a great deal of ornithological interest and writing had been stimulated by the vast amount of information gathered by voyages of exploration. Competition for bird specimens was keen, and many important collections, or "cabinets," were developed by private collectors and museums.

One interesting individual of the late-18th century was the French ornithologist François Le Vaillant [1753-1824] . Among Le Vaillant's travels was a trip to South Africa, sponsored by Jacob Temminck, to search for new species of birds for Temminck's cabinet. Le Vaillant's six-volume Histoire naturelle des oiseaux d'Afrique (1796-1808) is noted for its excellent style of writing and attractive colored plates. He discovered some fifty new species of African birds and wrote, in a detailed and lively manner, the only substantial account of African birds of the period. The Hill Collection includes a beautiful copy of this valuable work, one that is particularly notable because it once was part of the personal collection of John James Audubon.

Another French naturalist of note during this period was Louis Pierre Vieillot [1748-1831?]. Vieillot was one of the first ornithologists to stress the importance of observing the life histories and habits of birds in order to understand their positions in a classification scheme. His recognition of differences in plumage among members of the same species, between the sexes, and between adult and immature birds was almost unique at that time.

Vieillot spent ten years or more in North America and made substantial contributions to early American descriptive ornithology. He published a useful but unfinished work of twenty-two parts, in three formats, entitled Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de l'Amerique septentrionale (1807-1808?).

Viellot also played a role in the publication of the magnificent Oiseaux dorés ou á reflets métalliques, by Jean Baptiste Audebert [1759-1800]. Issued in 1800-1802, the Oiseaux dorés is a two-volume set of fine engraved plates, with captions in gold and some colors in the plates heightened with gold. Particularly spectacular are the Birds of Paradise. Audebert invented the color printing process used, but after his death in 1800 it was Viellot who prepared most of the text and engraved the plates from Audebert's notes and drawings.



Online guide developed from:

Ornithology Collections in the Libraries at Cornell University: A Descriptive Guide
Revised Edition, 1999
Ithaca, New York
© 1999 Cornell University Library
Webpage last revised: 6/10/99 by jfc & clsb.

Le Saphir

Le Saphir
from Histoire Naturelle et Générale des Grimpereaux...
by J.B. Audebert

metal engraving/etching