BLOCH, Marcus Elieser

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 x 28 cm; binding ca. 47.5 x 29.5 cm). Parts 1-6 bound in 3 volumes, half-title and title to each part, with elaborately engraved vignette illustrating fishing scenes for 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 re-backed, gilt decorated spines. Marbled end-papers. 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 ichthyology (the science of fishes), which Brunet defined “the most beautiful that we have about that part of natural history”. First published 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 1,500 items. His was among the most extensive collections of illustrations devoted to fishes 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 may show a frontispiece portrait of the author, the present copy is nevertheless to be considered complete as it was issued in the first impression, where this portrait was not included. Furthermore, this work has to be considered complete because of the mention of the “sixth and last part” on the title-page of the sixth part, which was published in 1788. This is an outstandingly beautiful copy of a classic study of taxonomy.


Brunet, I, 974; Nissen ZBI 416; Wood, p. 244; Dance, p. 56.