BELON, Pierre (1517-1564).
L'histoire de la nature des oyseaux, avec leurs descriptions, & nafs portraicts retirez du naturel.
Paris: Guillaume Cavellat, 1555.
Comparable: Christie's, 2012 - $27,500.
7 parts in one volume. Folio (13 x 8 4/8 inches). Woodcut printer's device on title-page and six sectional title-pages, woodcut portrait of Belon on verso of title-page, two woodcuts of human and bird skeletons and 158 large woodcuts in the text of birds by Pierre Gourdelle and others, numerous 11-line and smaller ornamental woodcut initials and head-pieces (title-page a little spotty, some pale marginal waterstaining, heavier on last few leaves). Contemporary limp vellum (front inner hinge detached, paste-down torn, one or two stains); preserved in modern blue cloth slipcase. Provenance: With the engraved armorial Schloss Nordkirchen bookplate of the Dukes of Arenberg, probably of Maria von Plattenberg and her husband Nikolaus-Maria Franz von Esterhazy-Galantha, on the front paste-down; with the bookplate of H. Bradley Martin on the front paste-down, his sale Sotheby's New York, 12 December 1989, lot 1375. First edition, Cavellat issue. One of the most important ornithological texts of the Renaissance. The beautiful woodcuts that illustrate this groundbreaking work are drawn entirely from observation of live specimens (except in the case of the skeletons...), a result of his extensive travels throughout Europe and the middle east: "Belon described approximately 230 species (including the bat), most of them European, but including some foreign species observed from his sojourns in Asia Minor and Egypt" (Norman). Belon is considered by many to be the first explorer naturalist and the father of comparative anatomy. The parallels he drew between human and bird skeletons, are the first such. He was also the first to bring order to the classification of birds by distinguishing between raptorial birds, field birds, diurnal birds, river birds and so on. In his other celebrated work on fishes, he depicted a porpoise embryo and recorded the first ideas about embryology. Belon dedicated this work to Henri II (1519-1559), who granted him a pension in 1556, on the strength of Belonâ€™s plan for the cultivation of foreign botanical specimens in France. Richard S. Westfall, Department of History and Philosophy of Science Indiana University; Anker pp. 9-10; BM/STC French p. 46; Garrison-Morton 283 (Cavellat issue); Harvard/Mortimer French 50; Nissen IVB 86; Norman 180.