In 1793, after the French Revolution, the former royal garden and collection became the Botanical Garden and the National Museum of Natural History. A zoo linked with the museum was also established, replacing the royal menagerie at Versailles. Until then, people had seen animals in traveling shows, where they were exhibited as curiosities. Traveling menageries were soon banned in Paris, ensuring a steady stream of visitors to the new zoo. The eminent naturalists La Cépède, Cuvier and Geoffroy compiled a catalog of the animals in the zoo in 1801. Nicolas Maréchal, the museum’s painter, documented the animals of the new zoo in watercolor paintings on vellum.
The engraver and co-publisher of this work was Simon Charles Miger (1736-1820), a French printmaker and publisher. He engraved numerous portraits of French royalty, which are in the collections of museums such as the National Gallery of Art, Washington. He also engraved and published books on a variety of subjects, including natural history and philosophical writings by Voltaire and others. The other publisher, Renouard, is identified on the title page of La Menagerie du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle as a bookseller.
Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was a French naturalist, considered the father of comparative anatomy, who introduced the concept of phylum and is credited with almost single-handedly founding the discipline of vertebrate paleontology. In 1795 he came to Paris at the invitation of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, where he became a professor of animal anatomy and superintendent of the zoo at the Museum of Natural History. Cuvier’s comparisons improved and extended the Linnaean system of classification. He was recognized by being knighted and made a Baron and Peer of France. Bernard Germain Etienne de la Ville-sur-Illion, Comte de La Cépède was also a prominent naturalist, who dropped his title of “Count” after the Revolution. Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844) was also a French naturalist whose ideas about evolution influenced later naturalists. He collaborated with Cuvier on five works on natural history, although their conceptions of evolutionary biology ultimately diverged.
Full title and publication information: La Ménagerie du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle ou Description et Histoire des Animaux Qui Y Vivent et Qui Y Ont Vécu, Par Les CC. LaCépède, Cuvier et Geoffroy, Avec des Figures peintes, d’aprés Nature, par Maréchal, Peintre du Muséum, Gravés, avec l’agrément de l’Administration, A Paris, Chez Miger, Graveur, quai des Miramiones, no. 106; Et Ant. Aug. Renouard, Libraire, rue Saint-André-des-Arcs, no. 42.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, soft creases. Slight irregularities to outer edges, minor scattered foxing in margins, all can be matted out.
“Étienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire.” University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Paleontology. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/hilaire.html (25 March 2004).
“Georges Cuvier.” University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Paleontology. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/cuvier.html (25 March 2004).