Paris: Noel aîné, no date but 1827.
A splendid collection of expressive coloured lithographs depicting the animals of the world.
This attractive album includes the entire run of 41 consecutive separately-issued plates; at which point, despite the charm and quality of the scenes, the publisher seems to have closed the series, making this a rare collection, and all the more impressive given that even individual plates are uncommon. Colour lithography did not have its full flowering as a medium for printed illustration until adopted by Paris publishers in the 1820s: this album thus dates from the infancy of the truly commercial process, which may also explain the individual rarity of the plates. Because it was never formally completed, no title-page nor accompanying letterpress for the series was produced, though the title ‘Collection d’Animaux’ appears in the publisher’s 1827 catalogue of plates available for individual purchase (at a franc each, or 75 centimes uncoloured).
The images were produced by Paul-Louis Oudart and P. Guerin, both noted as “dessinateurs-naturalistes” at the Jardin du Roi (the Jardin des Plantes, that is, going through one of its periodic name changes, on this occasion because of the Bourbon restoration). Oudart (1796-1860) was the well-connected natural history artist who worked on the scientific plates for several grands voyages accounts, beginning with that of Freycinet in the mid-1820s. He signed 32 of the plates. Guerin, the artist of the remaining nine, was probably the artist of that name who worked on Vues et description du Jardin des plantes (1813).
As artists associated with the zoological gardens of the Jardin des Plantes, they include several animals which, in 1827, would still have been only newly seen in France. When originally advertised, the work was particularly noted not only for the inclusion of some of the rarest and most exotic animals of the world, but for displaying them in the appropriate landscape of their homelands, which is why the most famous plate shows a kangaroo in rolling parkland with the rest of its mob just to the right, noted in the caption as being very sweet-tempered animals. Another star is the chimpanzee (the species which had been called by Buffon a ‘Jocko’), which was already a favourite throughout Europe, not least for its ability to be domesticated.
Nor is it surprising, given this is a work in the French tradition, that many of the animals come from south-east Asia, with early depictions of the ‘Maiba’ (an “espèce nouvelle de Tapir”) from Java, the Black Gibbon from the Moluccas, a cassowary, the Indian rhinoceros, and several others. The series further includes cows and goats (probably derived, at least originally, from the animals in the famous Vallée de Suisse in the Jardin des Plantes) and an impressive selection of African animals, then as now extremely popular in zoos, such as tigers, lions, and the like.
The lithographs are signed Noël aîné & Cie., a firm which is not well-recorded in any of the standard references. They were established in the Rue de Vaugirard, no. 34 (as on the present plates) in the mid-1820s, and the proprietor Noël aîné (the elder) may have been a man called Francisque Noël. Fortunately, an 1827-published catalogue by the company records some important details regarding the present series of natural history scenes.
1. Chameau à deux bosses.
2. Hyène rayée.
3. Castor du Canada (planches interverties).
6. Vache à lait.
7. Jeune taureau et mouton.
8. Lion d’Afrique.
9. Ours blanc.
11. Chèvre de montagne.
12. Cheval de ferme.
16. Bouc, et chèvre de la Haute-Egypte.
17. Gibbon noir.
18. Chien de berger.
19. Tigre d’Afrique.
21. Ours brun d’Europe.
28. Eléphant des Indes.
29. Lionne et lionceaux d’Afrique.
34. Rhinoceros des Indes.
39. Cerf commun, biche et faon.
Oblong quarto (260 x 340 mm), with 41 colour lithographs; contemporary French binding of half red roan and marbled boards, hand-written paper label with contents pasted to front cover, spine with gilt bands and label (“Animaux Curieux”); some light spotting around edges of a dozen plates; overall in excellent condition.
Provenance: Early owner’s printed ex-libris of the lawyer F. Dolezaîné.
Bibliography: Catalogue du fonds de la Maison Noel Ainé et Cie. (1827), pp. 33-34 (https://archive.org/details/cataloguedufonds00noel/page/32).
Price (AUD): $5,750.00 other currencies