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[PERRAULT, Claude (1613–1688)]

Memoires de l’Academie Royale des Sciences, contenant les ouvrages adoptez par cette Academie avant son renouvellement en 1699. Tome Prémier. Memoires pour servir a l’histoire naturelle des animaux et des plantes.
La Haye, P. Gosse & I. Neaulme, 1731.

Late edition of the famous Parisian Memoirs with 28 plates illustrating lions, chameleons, a dromedary, a bear, a lynx, beaver, otter, mouse, and several other animals. Perrault took his medical doctor’s degree and then practiced for a time, but became more and more attracted to architecture. It is in this sphere that he became best known: as the designer of the Louvre collonnade he is mentioned in every guide-book to Paris. However, the interest in anatomy that he acquired as the result of his medical studies he maintained throughout his life; he dissected animals of every available kind and compared the results he achieved. Finally he fell a victim to his own zeal: he died of blood-poisoning contracted when dissecting a camel that had died in the Royal Zoological Garden. In June 1667 the Academy was invited to dissect a thresher shark and a lion which had died at the royal menagerie. The reports on these dissections were the first in a long series of anatomical descriptions, which ultimately included those of 25 species of mammals, 17 of birds, 5 reptiles, one amphibian, and one fish. These were eventually assembled in 1676 as memoirs towards a natural history of animals and first appeared anonymously. The anatomists worked as a team and every description had to be accepted by all. Nevertheless, Perrault’s name has always been attached to the descriptions and he was undoubtedly the leader of the group. They were conveniently referred to in the literature of this period as the “Parisians”, and they laid the foundation of our modern knowledge of comparative anatomy. The engraved frontispiece is a copy from Sebastien Le Clerc’s in the first edition of 1676 of a meeting of the Academy of Sciences in Paris, with Louis XIV and his minister Colbert, in the Royal Library at Versailles, 1671. The figure to the left behind the air-pump on the frontispiece is Perrault.

Collation: Pp (2) title, (8), Histoire naturelle des animaux: pp (18), 188. Engraved frontispiece signed C. Duflos, 1730, after Sebastien Le Clerc and 28 folding engraved plates of animals. Titles printed in red and black with engraved vignette by D. Coster. One large engraved headpiece.

Binding: Contemporary calf, richly gilt spine with five raised bands, red edges.

Provenance: Engraved bookplate: Wilfred Lawson Esq.; Turner Collection, The Library University of Keele.

References: Garrison-Morton 295 (the first edition in two volumes in folio, Paris, 1671-1676); DSB, X, 519-21; Nordenskiöld, 153 ff; Cole, A History of Comparative Anatomy, pp 393 ff.

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