2 volumes. Folio (20 x 13 inches). Half-titles. 114 etched plates after Jacques Barraband by Bouquet, Grémilliet, and Perée, printed in colors by Langlois and Rousset and finished by hand including 6 folding (some spotting and browning at the end of volume one). FINE contemporary diced Russia elegantly decorated in gilt with the gilt arms of the Order of the Garter in the centre of the front cover of each volume (rebacked preserving the original spine).
Provenance: with the gilt arms of Knight of the Order of the Garter presumably belonging to George Legge, 3rd Earl of Dartmouth KG, PC, FRS (1755 - 1810), styled Viscount Lewisham until 1801; with the early 20th-century engraved bookplate of William Heneage Legge, 6th Earl of Dartmouth GCVO, KCB, PC, VD, TD, JP (1851 - 1936), styled Viscount Lewisham between 1853 and 1891, on the front paste-down; with Bernard Quaritch Ltd 1921; inscribed on the bookplate and on the verso of the front free endpaper of each volume by A.J. Dearden and dated 1925.
"[A] MAGNIFICENT WORK" (Wood).
First edition, and a FINE COPY, IN AN ELEGANT BINDING, WITH SUPERB COLOURING HEIGHTENED IN GOLD, AND WITH AN ILLUSTRIOUS PROVENANCE, this issue with the title-pages without the monogram or the phrase "Libraire de S.A.I. le Prince Joseph" after Denné's name found in other sets. Originally issued in 19 parts between 1801 and 1806. With spectacular plates of exotic birds by Jacques Barraband (1767-1809), "considered among the best bird artists of the time [whose] work for Le Vaillant was the climax of his career" (Jackson).
Barraband originally trained as a draughtsman at the celebrated Gobelins tapestry factory in Paris, and then worked as a ceramic artist drawing for the Sévres factory in 1806, his achievements as an ornithological artist, illustrating the works of Levaillant and others, came later in life. Apart from their undoubted beauty, Barraband's engravings display a scientific accuracy that few ornithological artists have matched since. The meticulous hand-colored engravings in Levaillant's publications were unmatched for the delicate modulations of tone and color, fine lines and perfect draftsmanship, making them exceptional in their richness and tonal variation. Each feather is described by dozens of parallel lines, providing remarkable detail and naturalistically textured color. Some of the prints are embellished with touches of gold leaf on the feathers of the cheeks and shoulders of the birds, emphasizing the preciousness of the plates and reproducing the iridescence of the birds' feathers.
From the distinguished library of the Earls of Dartmouth, probably acquired by the 3rd Earl at the time of his investiture as a Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1805. Dartmouth served as lord steward of the household from August 1802 and as lord chamberlain from May 1804. He was a trustee of the British Museum (1802-10). Anker 304; "Fine Bird Books" p. 118; C. Jackson, "Dictionary of Bird Artists of the World", Woodbridge: 1999, p.148; Nissen IVB 559; Ronsil 1780; Wood p. 434; Zimmer p. 393. Catalogued by Kate Hunter