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Complete first series (humans, mammalian quadrupeds, apes) of first edition of Buffon's seminal work

BUFFON, Georges Louis Leclerc.
Histoire naturelle, générale et particuliére, avec la description du cabinet du Roi.
Paris, Imprimerie Royale, 1749-1767. 15 volumes. 4to. With engraved frontispiece portrait of Buffon, 19 engraved headpieces (with animals and putti), 2 folding maps ("Carte de l'ancien continent" and "Cart du nouveau continent"), 579 engraved plates (full-page and folding, including 1 unnumbered and 1 bis). Contemporary uniform mottled calf, gold-tooled spine and board edges.
€ 5,000
First edition of the first 15 volumes of Buffon's justly famous Histoire naturelle, the complete first series, covering the formation of the earth, humans, mammalian quadrupeds and apes, and also describing the royal collection of Louis XV. Buffon's work presents "for the first time a complete survey of natural history in popular form'' (PMM).
Buffon opens the first volume with an essay called "Théorie de la terre", where "for the first time he outlines a satisfactory account of the history of our globe and of its development as a fitting home for living things '' (PMM).
In the second volume, Buffon offers a short treatise on general biology. In his treatise on humans, found in volumes II and III, Buffon "studied the human species by the same methods that he applied to animal species, including the psychological, moral, and intellectual life of man. From his exhaustive research for the Histoire naturelle des quadrupèdes, [volumes IV-XV] Buffon came to the conclusion that it was necessary to reintroduce the notion of family. Breaking with the spirit of his time, Buffon attempted to separate science from metaphysical and religious ideas. As a disciple of Locke he denied idealistic metaphysics, stating that mental abstractions can never become principles of either existence or real knowledge; these can come only as the results of sensation'' (DSB).
The bindings show some scratches and minor wear but are structurally sound. A fine set of the first 15 volumes of this key work on natural history in uniform bindings written by "the first to present the universe as one complete whole and to find no phenomenon calling for any but a purely scientific explanation'' (PMM). Bertin et al., Buffon (Paris, 1952), especially pp. 233-234; DSB II, pp. 576-581; Nissen, ZBI 672; PMM 198.
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Natural history  >  Mammals