George Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon: “Natural history, general and particular”
Illustrated with about 300 copper-plates and occasional notes and observations by William Smellie – London, W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1785 – 8 volumes – (XX) 514;(4) 517; (IV) (2)523; (VII) 352; (VIII) 440; (4) 443; (VII) 452; (VII) 352 pp – calfskin binding with morocco-leather letter piece – 21.5 × 13.5 cm, translated into english.
Good. Some loss of leather at head of spine in some volumes. Ex-libris on pastedown of all volumes. Pencil scribble on pastedown. Interiors fairly crisp to slightly discoloured, moderate foxing on title pages and sometimes inside, mainly in margin of the plates; some tanning along the edges of title pages and endpapers.
Volume 1 with slight loss of leather at head of spine, large diagonal crease in the first 18 pp
2. Left joint torn at the top, to the bottom of the letter piece
3. Left joint superficially open
4. Left joint with approx. 1 cm tear
5. Left and right joints torn, approx. 2 cm at the top
6. Minor leather loss at head of spine
7. Top right joint professionally restored
8. Left joint at top approx. 2 cm torn, right joint superficially open
All bookblocks solid and firmly bound.
Illustrated with 301 engravings including 2 folding maps – all depicted.
The book read by every educated person in Europe
“Writing well consists of thinking, feeling and expressing well, of clarity of mind, soul and taste … The style is the man himself” said Buffon.
Buffon’s Histoire naturelle was originally intended to cover all three “kingdoms” of nature but the Histoire naturelle ended up being limited to the animal and mineral kingdoms, and the animals covered were only the birds and quadrupeds. “Written in a brilliant style, this work was read … by every educated person in Europe”. Numerous people, artists and scientist helped him in the production of this great work. This masterpiece was translated into many different languages, making him one of the most widely read authors of the day, a rival to Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Voltaire.
In the opening volumes of the Histoire naturelle Buffon questioned the usefulness of mathematics, criticized Carl Linnaeus’s taxonomical approach to natural history, outlined a history of the Earth with little relation to the Biblical account, and proposed a theory of reproduction that ran counter to the prevailing theory of pre-existence. The early volumes were condemned by the Faculty of Theology at the Sorbonne. Buffon published a retraction, but he continued publishing the offending volumes without any change.