Ornithological Rarities

Highlights from a Fine Country House Library

We are pleased to present a wonderful collection of rare ornithological works, from a fine country house library, in our next Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs auction on 19th June.  Head of Department, Simon Vickers, selects a few pieces to take a closer look at below.  

British noblemen and gentlemen of means in the 18th and 19th centuries purchased the finest natural history works for their libraries, including the best of those published on the European continent. One of the very finest, most sought after, and most important ornithological works of the 19th century is Coenraad Temminck & Baron Meiffren Laugier de Chartrouse’s luxuriant Nouveau Recueil de Planches Coloriées d’Oiseaux, pour servir de suite et de complément au planches enluminées de Buffon, 5 volumes, published in Paris between 1820 and 1839.



Nouveau Recueil de Planches

Lot 216 | Temminck, Coenraad Jacob and le Baron Guillaume Michel Jérome Meiffren Laugier de Chartrouse.
Nouveau Recueil de Planches Coloriées d'Oiseaux, pour servir de suite et de complément aux planches enluminées de Buffon.
Paris: F.G. Levrault, Strasbourg: Même Maison; Amsterdam: Legras Imbert et Comp. [1820]- 1838-[1839].
First edition, 5 volumes, large 4to (353 x 260mm.), half-titles, 597 (of 600) finely hand-coloured engraved plates after Nicolas Hüet and Jean-Gabriel Prêtre, & others
£10,000-15,000 + fees



A Dutch aristocrat, born in Amsterdam in 1778, Coenraad Temminck was fascinated by birds from an early age, inheriting as a boy a large collection of exotic bird specimens from his father Jacob who was Treasurer of the Dutch East India Company. Temminck’s Manuel d’Ornithologie (1815) quickly became the standard work on European birds for many years and Temminck was the first director of the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden from 1820 until his death. The Nouveau Recueil is important in that it describes and illustrates a large number of birds for the first time, but also stands out from other ornithological works by virtue of its astonishingly detailed and accurate representation. Nicolas Hüet’s method of illustrating the head separately allowed him to depict the most minute details, as for instance in the head of the Alpine Condor where he succeeds in portraying every irregularity, the membrane covered by the tiniest hairs and the white collar around its neck. Its eye is particularly brilliantly conveyed.

As well as authoring twelve important ornithological and other natural history works, Temminck has the distinction of having 47 species named after him, of which 20 were birds.



Lesson Hummingbirds
Lot 208 | Lesson, René Primevere - A Collection of Four Ornithological Works, Uniformly bound.
Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux-Mouches. Paris: Arthus Bertrand, [1829-30]; 46, 223, 86 plates, all printed in colour and finished by hand (including 48 bis);
Histoire Naturelle des Colibris, suivie d'un Supplément a l'histoire naturelle des Oiseaux-Mouches. Paris: Arthus Bertrand, [1830-32]; 10, 192, [4], 66 hand-coloured engraved plates (including 12bis & 13 bis);
Les Trochilidées, ou les Colibris et les Oiseaux-Mouches. Paris: Arthus Bertrand, [1832-33]; [4], [iv], 43, 168, [3], 66 hand-coloured engraved plates;
Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis et des Épimaques. Paris: A. Bertrand, [1830], 8, 34, [2], 248; 40 hand-coloured plates (including 11 bis, 25 bis & 25 ter)
£3,000-4,000 + fees



Temminck is also intimately associated with another brilliant work in this collection which has a bitter publishing history. This is Antoinette Knip and Teeminck’s stunning work Les Pigeons (1838-43) of which volume II is “said to be probably the rarest item in the whole of ornithological history” (Casey Wood, An Introduction to the Study of Vertebrate Zoology, 1931), and “amongst the finest of all bird plates” (Sacheverell Sitwell, Fine Bird Books 1700-1900, 1953., p.113).

Publication of the work had commenced in parts in 1808 under the longer title Histoire naturelle générale des Pigeons but rivalry between the artist, Antoinette Knip (née Courcelles) in Paris and the author of the text, Coenraad Temminck, in Leiden, led Madame Knip at the publication of the 9th (of 15) parts to appropriate the work to herself. Without consulting Temminck she ordered the printers to issue the work under the revised title Les Pigeons, par Madame Knip, née Pauline de Courcelles, with Temminck's role relegated beneath to "Le text par C.J. Temminck". In a deliberate ploy to deceive Temminck the copy she sent him did not have the altered title and by the time the work came out and he saw the altered title of the published work it was too late. Pauline Knip moreover had powerful friends at court, being a close friend of Marie Louise, the wife of the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Temminck found it impossible to get justice, his only recourse being to republish the text on its own in three octavo volumes, 1813-1815, adding a note on his treatment at the hands of Madame Knip which was none too complimentary towards her!



Les Pigeons
Lot 207 | Knip, Antoinette Pauline Jacqueline and Temminck, Coenraad Jacob
Les Pigeons. Paris: Mme Knip & Bellizard, Dufour & Cie., Typographie de Firmin Didot, [1838-43].
Second edition of volume 1, First edition of volume 2, large folio (533 x 348mm.), 2 volumes,
147 plates printed in colours and finished by hand after Knip, by César Macret
£10,000-15,000 + fees



Antoinette Pauline Jacqueline Knip was an exceptional ornithological artist in her own right. Born in Paris in 1781 she studied under Pierre-Paul Barraband the French zoological and botanical illustrator renowned for his life like renderings of tropical birds. She specialised early in painting birds, an occupation which absorbed her entirely. She led a very quiet, almost monastic life, spending many hours at her desk dedicated to the production of artistically exact and lifelike paintings of birds, often working from specimens sent back from French exploring expeditions and usually executed life size on folio sheets of vellum. She exhibited in the Paris Salons from 1808 to 1814 and was awarded a gold medal in 1810. From 1805, with the publication of the first volume of an important book on Tangaras and Todiers, Desmaret's Histoire naturelle des tangaras, des manakins, et des todiers (1805-7), she was able to support herself and her mother. One of the more famous prints in Les Pigeons is of the Mauritius blue pigeon, now extinct.




Dates for your Diary


Viewing | Friday 15 June 10am to 5pm, Sat 16 & Sun 17 June 12 noon to 4pm, Monday 18 June 10am to 5pm, Day of Sale from 9am
Auction | Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs | 19 June 2018 at 11am
Location | 33 Broughton Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3RR


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