Paris: Deterville, 1817.
Four volumes, octavo, 15 engraved plates by C.-L. Laurillard a handsome set, with all four half-titles, in contemporary quarter calf over mottled papered boards, gilt, double spine labels in red & green.
Cuvier's great zoology, including Australian insects from the Baudin voyage
First edition of this germinal work of natural history, with three volumes by Cuvier himself, and the fourth an important study of insects by his friend and colleague Latreille.
First edition of this germinal work of natural history, with three volumes by Cuvier himself, and the fourth an important study of insects by his friend and colleague Latreille.Recognised as the father of comparative anatomy, Cuvier published widely throughout his lifetime, but this was his most famous and influential work, and contained the results of all his previous research on the structures of living and fossil animals. It was based upon his vast knowledge of zoological anatomies, and in it he applied Linnæus' system of nomenclature and classification to the whole animal kingdom, in the process establishing his four great classes: vertebrate, molluscous, articulate, and radiated.Cuvier's work is a benchmark for many reasons, not least for the third volume present here, which is actually the work of Pierre André Latreille, Professor of Entomology at the Paris Museum: Latreille's contribution was not only a significant contribution to his field, but he had earlier been heavily involved in characterising the insects collected on the Baudin voyage to Australia and the Pacific. In the present volume, Latreille sought to update the foundation work of scholars including Fabricius within Cuvier's framework; as a result, Latreille included here many Australian insects including two, the 'Rhipcera' and the 'Heleus', noted for the first time.Cuvier, born in 1769, was invited by Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire to come to Paris in 1795. He took an appointment at the newly-formed Muséum nationale d'histoire naturelle, where he remained until his death from cholera in 1832. He had first publicly canvassed his new quadripartite schema of the animal kingdom in an 1812 presentation to the Academy of Sciences, but it was in this work that he first detailed how this proposed division worked in practice. Here, each of the classes is discussed in a separate volume, with volumes I, II and IV by Cuvier himself; his organizations of fish families in particular 'were so soundly based that they have become orders or suborders in present classification' (DSB).Throughout his career, Cuvier held to the premise of Le Règne Animal that the four branches were fundamentally different, and that any similarities between them were due entirely to common functions rather than common ancestry. He did not believe, that is, that there was any evolutionary adaptation, a stance which put him in open conflict with his contemporaries such as Buffon, Lamarck, and Geoffroy. This led to the famous debate between Cuvier and Geoffroy at the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris in 1830.Cuvier's towering position in the French natural sciences should be seen in the context of a very cynical view of his ambitions towards intellectual ownership of the science on Freycinet's voyage, an idea explored in correspondence between Faujas de Saint Fond and Louis de Freycinet.
B.M. (Nat. Hist.), I, 410; Dibner, 195; Musgrave, p. 187; Nissen, 1013 (Zoology); Nissen, 213 (Ornithology); Norman, 567; Printing and the Mind of Man, 276; Wood, p. 307.
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