Publisher Information: Paris: S. Mabre-Cramoisy for Imprimerie Royale, 1671-76.
Perrault, Claude (1613-88). Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire naturelle des animaux. [Bound with:] Picard, Jean-Félix (1620-82). Mesure de la terre. , 91, ; , 30, pp. Frontispiece and 14 plates by Sébastien LeClerc (Mémoires); 5 plates (Mesure). [With:] Perrault. Suite des mémoires pour servir à l'histoire des animaux. , 93-205, pp. 15 engraved plates by LeClerc. Together 3 works in 2 vols., double folio. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1671-76. 561 x 403 mm. Mottled calf ca. 1676, rebacked, arms of Louis XIV in gilt on front and back covers, light wear, edge of Vol. II back cover a little bumped. A few leaves creased, light marginal dampstains on 2 or 3 plates, but very good. 19th century armorial bookplate; bookplate of Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow.
First Editions. Perrault was the leader of a team of comparative anatomists that included Guichard Joseph Duverney, Jean Pecquet, Moyse Charas and Philippe de la Hire; they were often called the “Parisians” in contemporary literature because of their membership in the Académie Royale des Sciences. Their investigations began with a thresher shark and lion from the royal menagerie and went on to encompass forty-nine vertebrate species. “Although some of the discoveries on which the Parisians most prided themselves—including the nictitating membrane that Perrault first observed in a cassowary, the external lobation of the kidneys in the bear, and the castoreal glands of the beaver—had been observed earlier, no such detailed and exact descriptions and illustrations had been published before” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). In the spirit of rationalism, Perrault and his team investigated and debunked many popular myths attached to certain species, such as the legend that salamanders live in fire or that chameleons subsist on air. They also recorded their methods of work along with their results, providing the only contemporary disclosure of how such anatomical research was conducted in the seventeenth century.
The Mémoires were originally issued in two parts in 1671 and 1676, as in our copy; they were later reissued in 1676 (with slight changes) as one volume with a new title-leaf. The two volumes of the Mémoires contain descriptions of twenty-nine species, including the lion, the chameleon, the shark, the lynx, the porcupine, the eagle, the cormorant and the ostrich. Our copy was bound for presentation by Louis XIV, patron of the Académie des Sciences; a significant portion of the edition was bound this way.
Vol. I of our copy also includes the first edition of Jean-Félix Picard’s Mesure de la terre (1671), which contains the first reasonably accurate calculation of the size of the Earth. Picard based his calculation on his measurements of a degree of latitude along the Paris meridian. Using sophisticated instruments, Picard obtained a value for the Earth’s polar radius of 6328.9 kilometers, only 0.44% below the correct value of 6357 km.; his results were thirty to forty times more precise than any that had been obtained previously. Dibner, Heralds of Science, 84. Norman 1687 (Perrault).Book Id: 44411