[Paris, Briasson, David, Le Breton, 1768]. Folio (39.2 x 25.1 cm, or wider). Nine plates with large engravings, each with fine, contemporary hand-colouring, gilt border and printed caption.
This is a highly unusual contemporarily coloured suite of all the single page folio ‘insect’ plates (including arachnids, a scorpion and some other arthropods). It was published in the atlas of the first folio edition of the famous Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. The massive Encyclopédie was edited and partly written by Diderot, d'Alembert and Voltaire, being the first true encyclopaedia, epitomizing the age of Enlightenment. Published between 1751 and 1772, it synthesized the knowledge of the time. It became not only a source of knowledge, but also a political weapon in the battle for power between secular and ecclesiastical thinkers and writers. The plates were drawn by François Nicolas Martinet and engraved by Robert Bénard. Its dimensions indicate that these plates come from a large-paper copy, which, according to Brunet, “sont assez rares”. Brunet does not record coloured copies. Plates with modern colouring are not unknown, but this is altogether different – not only is the colouring very well done, but the printed border is carefully gilded, too. Left margins, with some marginal fraying and chipping, being disbound; a few, minor, marginal spots, otherwise clean. The colouring bold and mostly accurate. A very good set. Exceedingly rare. Brunet 2, pp. 700-701; Nissen ZBI, 4622.