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GAUTIER D´AGOTY, Jacques Fabien (1717-1786)

Hermaphrodite. Dissertation au sujet de la fameuse Hermaphrodite, qui a paru aux yeux du public depuis environ trois mois, faite par le sieur METRUD, Chirurgien ordinaire du Roi ... Laquelle Hermaphrodite a été peinte & gravée par le sieur GAUTIER, Graveur & Pensionnaire du Roi.
Paris, Berryer, 9. Décembre 1749.

This scarce publication with two varnished colour-printed plates showing a hermaphrodite, is the most spectacular of all the works by Gautier d’Agoty. A complete set, with both plates present and accompanied by the broadsheet with descriptive letterpress text, dated 1749, seems to be of extreme rarity, not to be traced in any of the great medical libraries or collections. These two large folio plates are depicting a hermaphrodite, one is a frontal view and the other is a half-profile view with an imagined dissection of the gentalia in upper right corner. Three years later a fuller account appeared in the second and third articles in the first volume (1752) of Gautier’s journal, Observations sur l’Histoire Naturelle, illustrated with 3 colour-printed mezzotint plates, two of which were reproduced in smaller format from the large plates. – ”There we learn how he [Gautier] and Mertrud [a surgeon] visited and examined two hermaphrodites, one of them born in 1695 at the Corsican village of Luri, and named Maria Nonzia. The other subject was only sixteen years old when they made their visit – born in Paris in the parish of Sainte Marguerite, ’Fauxbourg S. Antoine’, named Michel-Anne Drouart and brought up by the parents as a girl. This sad case was recorded with clinical care and precision in three plates by Gautier to illustrate the two articles in his journal. Certainly this was exciting stuff to gain circulation for the new venture. The theme was so absorbing that these articles served as prelude to others describing certain insects believed to be hermaphrodites, with dual sexual organs. . . . The plates were an accurate record from the living subject, poor Michel-Anne Drouart. They satisfied the sort of curiosity which generates some aspects of research medicine. They differed from other such illustrations in all Gautier’s scientific work, in that those, though seeming always to have life, were from dissection.” (Colin Franklin).

Collation: One leaf of letterpress, verso blank. 2 colour-printed mezzotint plates, varnished.

Binding: Contemporary stiff grey-paper.

Provenance: Oval engraved bookplate: Bibliotheca Ludwigiana, with a bee-hive and a banderole lettered LABORE. Bought on an auction in Rasmussen, Götgatan, Stockholm (Lars Forsberg).

References: Colin & Charlotte Franklin, A Catalogue of Early Colour Printing from Chiaoscuro to Aquatint (1977), p 40 with one colour-plate.

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