F.N. Martinet. “Paille en queue blanc, de l’Isle de l’Ascension.” From Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux. Paris, 1749-1804. Ca. 8 1/4 x 6 3/4. Engravings by Martinet. Original hand-coloring. With neat manuscript name below title. Very good condition.
An original antique print by Martinet from Comte de Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle. This was one of the seminal natural history publication by one of the most important naturalists of all time. The Comte de Buffon (1707-88), was an amazingly talented man, whose studies ranged through mathematics, astronomy, and all the sciences. His theories, such as his argument that New World species were inferior, were very influential, though often controversial. His name was legendary in this vital period of natural history, as he was to France what Linnaeus was to Sweden. These memorable images were part of a prodigious undertaking, in which the Count, who was then keeper of the Jardin du Roi (precursor of the Paris Zoo) set out to describe the whole animal kingdom. Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle was issued in many editions, perhaps the finest of which used illustrations by Martinent, as exampled by this print. These prints were issued during the French Revolution (Ans VII-IX), and for quality, charm and the immensity of the undertaking, they are a fitting testimony to the 18th-century passion for natural history.