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OWEN, Richard (1804-1892)

Odontography; or, a Treatise on the Comparative Anatomy of the Teeth. Their Physiological Relations, Mode of Development, and Microscopic Structure, in the Vertebrate Animals. Two Volumes (Text & Atlas).
London, Hippolyte Bailliere, 1840-1845.

First edition. “This vast storehouse of detail on the structure of teeth was the first large-scale original work by Sir Richard Owen ... The scope of Owen’s writing, based on his own dissections and usually illustrated with his own drawings, has hardly been surpassed ... The work covered the whole range of the toothed vertebrates, fossil and extant, and discussed in detail the microscopic structure of the teeth and the physiology of dentition. After a long introduction, Owen described the dental system of fishes, repitiles, and mammals. The dentition of extinct large reptiles and mammals as well as that of the marsupials and cetacea was included in his survey. Human dentition was treated in the section of mammals. The illustrations by several artists (including the author) are particularly impressive ...“ (LeFanu, Notable Medical Books). There was a luxury large-paper issue (248 x 158 mm) published in a handful of copies. The plate volume of that issue is as thick as both the text and plate volumes of the regular issue combined. “Owen’s comprehensive investigation of the morphology of mammalian teeth led him into palaeontology, of which he soon became one of the masters. Owen was from 1836 to 1856 Hunterian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons. During the 1860’s he was one of the most virulent opponenets of Darwinism” (Garrison-Morton). The plate volume is one of the very earliest "photo-incunabulas". The atlas volume consists of 168 lithographic plates, the majority drawn on zinc by Lens Aldous, at least some of which are taken from photomicrographs taken by Joseph Bancroft Reade (1801–1870) immediately following the announcement to the public by Talbot of his Photogenic Drawing process early in 1839. Reade is one of the pioneers who began photographic experiments, using gallic acid and fixation with sodium biosulphite (’hypo’). Even though there are no original prints available from which to judge the quality of his work, he will rightly be remembered as one of the earliest photomicrographers. – ”Parallèment aux recherches de Donné et Foucault, Owen publie un atlas contenant des dessins faits à partir de microphotographies par J. B. Reade” (Gasser & Burns).

Collation: Pp (6), half-title, title, ded., [ix]-xix, (1), lxxiv, 655, (1) blank. Atlas: pp (4) half-title & title, [7]-37, (1). With 168 lithographed or engraved plates drawn by R. Owen, Lens Aldous, J. Erxleben, a.o., most of which are drawn on zink and printed by Day & Haghe, Lith. to the Queen. Plates numbered I-II, 1-150 with two extra for 62, 63, 64 & 65, and one extra for 70, 73, 75, 87, 89, 113, 119 & 122. Two of the plates are folding, one printed in colour.

Binding: Two volumes, contemporary half calf, rebacked with the original decorated spine laid down. Green endpapers.

References: Garrison-Morton 329 and 3681.1; Lilly Library, Notable Medical Books, p 195; Heirs of Hippocrates 1670; Poletti (1951), p 146; Weinberger, p 106; Crowley 1606; Gasser, Jacques & Stanley B. Burns: Photographie et Médecine 1840-1880 (1991), No. 4; Wood, Derek, ´J. B. Reade, F.R.S., and the Early History of Photography.' Part I-II, in Annals of Science, March 1971, vol. 27, No. 1, pp 13-45

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