Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux, avec leurs descriptions, & naifs portraicts retirez du naturel: escrite en sept livres, par Pierre Belon du Mans. Au Roy

Autore BELON, Pierre (1517-1564).
Tipografo Guillaume Cavellat
Dati tipografici Paris, 
Prezzo Ä 9000.00
Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux

A Paris, chez Guillaume Cavellat, devant le college de Cambray, à l'enseigne de la Poulle grasse, 1555. Colophon: Imprime a Paris par Benoist Prevost, demeurant en la rue Frementel, prés le cloz Bruneau, à l'enseigne de l'estoille d'or, 1555. (Paris, Benoît Prevost for Guillaume Cavellat, 1555).

Seven parts in one volume, folio (334x220 mm). [28], 381, [3] pp. Collation: â6ê-î4 a-f6 g4 h-m6 n4 o-t6 v4 x-z6 A-E6 F4 G-I6 K-L4. Leaves A6 and L4 are blank. Each section opens with a separate title page bearing the publisher's device. With a woodcut portrait of the author on title-page verso, 2 woodcuts comparing the skeletons of man and bird, and 158 large woodcut illustrations of birds. Contemporary limp vellum, inked title on spine (ties missing, some staining, new endleaves). Small tear to l. y5. with no damage to the text, damp stain on pp. 2-6, some gatherings very slightly browned, outer margin of the first title page a bit soiled, all in all a very good, genuine copy with wide margins.

First edition, Cavellat issue, of one of the earliest books devoted solely to birds. The work was printed by Benoît Prevost for two different publishers Gilles Corrozet and Guillaume Cavellat, so the edition is known in two issues with variant title pages. Belon dedicated the book to Henri II (1519-1559), who granted him a pension in 1556.

The work was intended as a compendium of ornithology and includes an important comparison of human and bird skeletons, which became the foundation of modern comparative anatomy. The work is divided into seven parts: the first on the anatomy and physiology of birds; the second on birds of prey (including a chapter on falconry); the third on swimming birds; the fourth on coastal birds; the fifth on galliformes; the sixth on crows and similar species; and the seventh on songbirds.

“Belon enriched the biological science by new observations and contributed greatly to the progress of the natural sciences in the sixteenth century. His learning was not derived solely from books. He was one of the first explorer-naturalists; and between 1546 and 1550 he undertook long voyages though Greece, Asia, Judaea, Egypt, Arabia, and other foreign countries. He passed though Constantinople, and in Rome he met the zoologists Rndelet and Salviani. Belon discarded the bases of the comparative method and was not at all afraid of drawing parallels between human and bird skeletons. He was the first to bring order into the world of feathered animals, distinguishing between raptorial birds, diurnal birds of prey, web-footed birds, river birds, field, birds, etc. Pavlov called him ‘prophet of comparative anatomy' ” (DSB).

“Belon described approximately 230 species (including the bat), most of them European, but including some foreign species observed from his sojourns in Asia Minor and Egypt” (Norman).

In his address to the reader Belon remarks that several artists contributed to the illustrations. The portrait of the author and several birds are signed with the Lorraine cross (see A. Bernard, Geoffroy Tory, p. 320), others with a white cross on a black diamond. Belon, however, gives the name of only one of the artists: Pierre Goudet (i.e. Gourdelle), who flourished in Paris ca. 1550-1558. Gourdelle first acquired the title of painter of the “état des officiers domestiques du Roi”, and then of “état de la Reine”. He made not only woodcuts but designed and published also engravings which were in part executed by Léonard Gaultier.

Pierre Belon was born near Le Mans (Sarthe). He studied medicine at Paris, where he took the degree of doctor, and then became a pupil of the botanist Valerius Cordus (1515-1544) at Wittenberg, with whom he travelled in Germany. On his return to France he was taken under the patronage of Cardinal de Tournon, who furnished him with means for undertaking an extensive scientific journey. Starting in 1546, he travelled through Greece, Asia Minor, Egypt, Arabia and Palestine, and returned in 1549. A full account of this journey was published in 1553 under the title Les observations de plusieurs singularitez et choses memorables trouvées en Grèce, Asie, Judée, Egypte, Arabie et autres pays étrangèrs (cf. J.P. Tricot, The voyage in 1547 to Stamboul (Constantinople) by the pharmacist-naturalist Pierre Belon from Mans, in: “Histoire des sciences médicales”, 38/2, 2004, pp. 191-198). Belon, who was highly favoured both by Henry II and by Charles IX, was assassinated in Paris one evening in April 1564, when passing through the Bois de Boulogne. Besides the narrative of his travels he wrote several scientific works of considerable value, particularly the Histoire naturelle des estranges poissons (1551), De aquatilibus (1553), and L'histoire de la nature des oyseaux (1555).

Mortimer (French), 50; Nissen, IVB 86; Schwerdt, I, 59; DSB, I, pp. 595-596; Garrison-Morton, 283; Norman, 180; Index Aureliensis, 11.330; Cole, History of Comparative Anatomy, pp. 7-10; Anker, Bird Books and Bird Art, pp. 9-10.

  • Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux
  • Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux
  • Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux
  • Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux
  • Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux
  • Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux
  • Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux
  • Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux
  • Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux
  • Líhistoire de la nature des oyseaux