216 SPLENDID HAND-COLOURED C18TH ENGRAVING OF FISHES
BLOCH, Marcus Elieser. Ichtyologie, ou Histoire Naturelle, Generale et Particuliere des Poissons. Avec des figures enluminees, dessinees d’apres nature [Parts I-VI] Berlin, Chez l’auteur, & Chez Francois de la Garde, Libraire, 1785-1788.
FIRST FRENCH EDITION. Folio (leaves ca. 46×28; binding ca. 47.5×29.5). Parts 1-6 bound in 3 volumes, half-title and title to each part, with elaborate engraved vignette illustrating fishing scenes to each title by D. Berger after F.C.W. Rosenberg. Complete with 216 fine hand-coloured engraved plates, occasionally heightened with gold, silver and bronze pigments to reproduce the shiny reflective scales of fish. In clean condition, crisp and with good margins. Bound in contemporary full Russia with Greek key gilt border decoration to outer edges; skilfully rebacked, gilt decorated spines. Marbled endpapers. An excellent copy.
Marcus Elieser Bloch (1723-1799) was a German doctor and naturalist. This is a remarkable copy of the first six parts of his masterpiece on ichthyologie (the science of fishes), which Brunet defined “the most beautiful that we have about that part of natural history”. First published the same year in German in a quarto edition, this much larger and finer second edition of Bloch’s work was translated into French by J.-C. Laveaux. Nissen described it as “the finest illustrated work on fishes ever produced. The plates, by a variety of artists and engravers, are outstandingly coloured, and are heightened with gold, silver, and bronze to produce the metallic sheen of fish scales.” The engravings were based on drawings from the author’s own collection, which included around 1500 items. His was among the most extensive collections of illustrations devoted to ichthyologie in private hands at the time. The second 6 parts (7-12) of this monumental set in 12 parts containing a total of 432 plates were finished in 1797. Although some copies sold in the book trade and copies in public institutions may show a frontispiece portrait of the author, the present copy is nevertheless complete, since it was issued during the first impression. In fact, we have reason to believe that the portrait was added only in the second impression of these first six parts. Furthermore, this work can be considered complete as it is, because on the title-page of the sixth part, published in 1788, is written “sixth and last part”.
Brunet, I, 974; Nissen ZBI 416; Wood, p. 244; Dance, p. 56.