[Paris, Briasson, David, Le Breton, 1768]. Oblong folio (39.7 x 67.6 cm). Broadsheet plate with a fine, large engraving with fine, contemporary hand-colouring, gilt border and printed caption.
This is a highly unusual contemporarily coloured copy of an exceptionally large plate showing an extraordinarily small and peculiar animal. 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 and is a highlight in the history of microscopy. 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 to 1772, it synthesized the knowledge of the time. It became not only a source of knowledge, but also a political weapon on the battleground for power between secular and ecclesiastical thinkers and writers. The plate was drawn by François Nicolás Martinet and engraved by Robert Bénard after the famous image of Robert Hooke's Micrographia from 1665. Its dimensions indicate that this plate comes from a large-paper copy, which, according to Brunet, "...sont assez rares". Brunet does not record coloured copies. Plates with modern colouring are not unheard of, but this is altogether different - not only is the colouring very well done, but the printed border is carefully gilted too (often yellow in modern colouring). Two vertical fold (as always); a few, minor, marginal spots, otherwise clean. The colouring bold and accurate. A very good copy. Exceedingly rare. Brunet 2, pp. 700-701; Nissen ZBI, 4622; PMM, 200.