“Voyage `a la Nouvelle Guinee, dans lequel on trouve la description des Lieux, des Observations physiques and morales, & des details relatifs `a I’Histoire Naturelle….”.
Paris, chez Ruault, 1776.
Quarto, with 119 full-page engravings (Original incorrect numbering up to 120), many folding; a few spots affect the half-title yet a fine fresh copy in superb contemporary French binding of patterned calf, spine gilt with raised bands and red morocco label.
First edition of Sonnerat”s important book of New Guinea, the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies, and accidently an odd Australian “first” (see below).
Sonnerat, whose uncle Pierre Poivre was the Intendant of Mauritius, was sent on a spice-and plant-hunting voyage; he made his first stop in the Seychelles. His book is superbly illustrated with natural history engravings after his own original drawings. The famous frontispiece is a self-portrait of the author sitting under a coco-de-mer palm, while the first four plates show details of the palm and its botany; the text includes one of the earliest descriptions of the palm, and its habitat in the early days of the colony. The first folding plate is a coastal panorama of the Seychelles and Coetivy Island, the first to appear in any publication.
Another engraving (plate106) is, remarkably one of the earliest printed descriptions of an Australian bird – the laughing kookaburra, wrongly titled by Sonnerat as the “Grand Martin-Pecheur la nouvelle Guinea”. It in fact depicts one of the kookaburras caught by Sir Joseph Banks on the east coast of Australia in 1770. On the Endeavour’s return journey, Banks gave a specimen to Sonnerat when they met at the Cape of Good Hope. This is how the bird acquired its incorrect but lasting scientific name. Dacelo novaguineae. $5000.