The prints achieve the appearance of watercolors through the use of stipple engraving, a sophisticated and innovative process developed by the best French botanical artist of this period, Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Through this method, the colors were applied to the etched plate a la poupée before each printing, then finished by hand. Thus, even though a print, this process enabled the effect of “all the softness and brilliance of a watercolor,” as Redouté noted about his own botanical works. Audebert, as artist and etcher, thus achieved an unparalleled portrayal of lifelike luminosity, sheen and dimensionality in the monkeys’ faces and fur. As summarized by scholar S. Peter Dance “[t]he tradition embodied in the brilliant dynasty of miniaturists . . . gave zoological art in France an overall uniformity and distinction that was not equaled elsewhere. The illustrations in books such as the Histoire Naturelle des Singes et des Makis by J.B. Audebert had few serious rivals outside France in the early years of the nineteenth century.”
Audebert, a painter by training, was born in Rochefort, France. After receiving a commission to help with the preparation of the plates for Guillaume Antoine Olivier’s Entomologie (Paris: 1789-1808), he also began producing natural history prints. His greatest work, Histoire Naturelle des Singes was published in 10 parts between 1797 and 1800 and sold by subscription. It was the only publication of Audebert’s work to be completed during his life-time. It is now considered the greatest colorplate natural history monkey set ever produced and among the best animal books overall of the time when it was published. Oiseaux dores ou a reflets metalliques (Paris: 1800-1802) was the last major work to which Audubert contributed. Tragically Audebert died at the young age of 41 in 1800; the text for Oiseaux dores was largely by Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot, who completed the work using Audebert’s notes.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, soft creases. Disbound edges, incomplete platemarks, as issued.
“Audebert.” The 1911 Encyclopedia. http://52.1911encyclopedia.org/A/AU/AUDE.htm (23 January 2004).
Brunet, J-Ch. Manuel du Libraire et de L’amateur de Livres. 5th ed. Paris: Firmin Didot Frères et cie, 1860-65. 550.
Dance, S. Peter. The Art of Natural Animal History Illustrators and Their Work. New York: Overlook Press, 1990.
“Karl von Linné (Carolus Linnaeus) and His Names for Primates.” http://members.aol.com/darwinpage/zoo/linnaeus.htm (23 January 2004).
Nissen, Claus. Die Zoologische Buchillustration: ihre Bibliographie und Geschichte. Stuttgart: 1969-78. 156.
Wood, Casey A. (ed.) An Introduction to the Literature of Vertebrate Zoology Based Chiefly on the Titles in the Blacker Library of Zoology, the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology, the Bibliotheca Osleriana, and Other Libraries of McGill University, Montreal. London: Humphry Milford, Oxford University Press, 1931. p. 206.