VIEILLOT, Louis Jean Pierre (1748-1831). Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de l'Amerique Septentrionale, contenant un grand nombre d'especes decrites ou figurees pour la premiere fois. Paris: Chez Desray, 1807- .
2 volumes. Folio (19 4/8 x 12 6/8 inches). Half-titles. Extra-illustrated with a double-page and folding engraved map of "L'Amerique Septentrionale" by M. Herisson, published by Desray, tipped-in before the plates, 131 etched plates, numbered 1-124 with 7 bis plates, after J.-G. Pretre by L. Bouquet, printed in colors by Langlois and finished by hand (preliminaries to volume one loose, some occasionally heavy spotting throughout). Contemporary half scarlet morocco, marbled paper boards, gilt (extremities quite scuffed).
"Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot was one of the more discerning ornithologists who gave particular study to female, immature and seasonal plumages'' (Allen).
First edition of this superb American ornithology, containing descriptions of many North American birds, some of which predate those of Alexander Wilson. Vieillot, along with Wilson, was a pioneer in a new kind of ornithology in which birds were no longer assessed as specimens and skins but studied as living organisms within their environment.
Very little is known of the life of this famous ornithologist closely associated with American as well as French birds: in all 26 genera and 32 species of North American bird were originally described by Vieillot, and he gave the Wild Turkey, the Pintail, the Cedar Waxwing, and the Scarlet Tanager their Latin scientific names. Vieillot emigrated from France to Santo Domingo in 1780 but, on the rise of civil unrest there, he moved to the United States in about 1792. Six years later, destitute, he returned to Paris and published "Histoire Naturelle des plus beaux oiseaux chanteurs de la Zone Torride" between 1805 and 1808 and between 1812 and 1820 studied the expanding exotic bird collection in the Paris Museum. Vieillot, was overshadowed by Buffon and Georges Frederic Cuvier and rejected by his contemporaries in the field, but his controbution to the ornithology of the New World eventually gained recognition after his death. Allen 549-552; Anker 515; Fine Bird Books 112; Nissen IVB 957; Yale/Ripley p.300; Zimmer p.654. Catalogued by Kate Hunter