SONNERAT, Pierre (1749-1811). Voyage a la Nouvelle Guinee, dans lequel on trouve la description des Lieux, des Observations physiques & morales, & des details relatifs a l'Histoire Naturelle dans le Regne Animal & le Regne Vegetal, Paris: Chez Ruault, Librairie, rue de la Harpe, 1776.
4to., (10 x 7 4/8 inches). Half-title. Engraved frontispiece, complete with 6 double-page and folding engraved plates of views, 100 full-page engraved plates of birds and plants with modern colour in full or in part, 12 uncoloured engraved plates, numbered 1-120, with numbers 90-91 a single plate, by C. Bacquoy after Desmoulins and P. Sonnerat (one or two plates loose, plate 68 torn with loss to the top corner just affecting the image, some pale water-staining at end), woodcut head-pieces and initials. Contemporary mottled calf, gilt (worn at the extremities).
Second edition of an extremely important work, an account of Sonnerat's first voyage to New Guinea. Sonnerat in fact never got closer to New Guinea than Gebi Island, and many of the observations and illustrations relate to spices and birds encountered along the way, primarily in the Philippines and Moluccas. The views include a folding engraving of the Seychelles, and the finely engraved depictions of birds include one of the earliest illustrations of the Australian laughing kookaburra (Hill).
During his extensive travels in Asia, mainly to the Philippines and the Moluccas, Sonnerat brought back a botanical and zoological collection which formed the basis of this, his first major publication. "The work appears to have been a supplement to Brisson's Ornithologie (1760) and a link with Histoire naturelle des oiseaux of Buffon and Gueneau de Montbeliard ... It no doubt promoted his admission to the Academie des Sciences, Belles-Lettres etArts of Lyons as associate member, and his election on 19 January 1774 to the Academie Royale des Sciences as correspondent of the botanist Adanson." (DSB). Nissen IVB 885; Stafleu 12.451a; Hill (2004) 1606. Catalogued by Kate Hunter