A very fine example of the first illustrated monograph on monkeys. This is the first original work of Jean Baptiste Audebert (1759-1800). He ‘was one of several outstanding French artists whose illustrations signalled a new and splendid epoch in the history of animal portraiture at the beginning of the nineteenth century’ (Dance). The first two of this ten part series were published in February and July 1798. The remainder were published throughout 1799 concluding in October. Born in Rochefort, France, he studied art at Paris gaining a reputation as a miniature painter. He gained a taste for natural history after a meeting with Gigot-d’Orex.
This work on primates divided the species into six families. The illustrations represent the great apes such as chimpanzees and orangutans, as well as recently discovered species such as the Galeopithecus of the Pelew Islands. Audubert developed his own printing techniques employing a colour-printing process in which all the colours were printed from one plate and oil paint was substituted for gouache. This is an original edition with a red morocco binding by Bozerian. Jean-Claude Bozérian (17962-1840), with his younger brother, François, were the leading binders of their age, working for Napoleon during the First Empire. At the 1801 Paris Exhibition, Jean-Claude won the bookbinding medal. Audebert died at the young age of 41, but his reputation as an artist was assured both by the present work and the later Oiseaux Dorés (Paris, 1800-1802). Provenance: evidence of bookplate removed from front pastedown. Brunet I, 550 (‘ouvrage curieux et d’une exécution magnifique’); Dance (1990) pp. 12-13; Nissen ZVB, 156; Wood, p. 206.