Frankfurt am Main, Matthias Merian, 1650-1653. Six parts in four. Folio (32.6 x 19.6 cm) with 249 engraved plates and six engraved title pages (four resembling frontispieces, engraved by Matthias Merian). Part I (no date, but 1650) 232 [iv] pp., 80 plates; Part III (AND) Part II (1653) 200, [vii]; 40, [iii] pp., 40 [28, 12] plates; Part V (no date, but 1650) (AND) part IV (1650) 228; 78; [xii] pp., 67 [47, 20] plates; Part VI (1650). 227, [vii] pp. 62 plates. Contemporary uniform full mottled calf. Spines with six raised bands, compartments with rich gilt floral patterns and two green morocco labels with gilt titles.
A nice set in the rare first edition of Jonston's famous "Historiae naturalis" depicting all then "known" animals including insects, snakes, "dragons", shells, birds, etc. This is the Frankfurt edition, which is much rarer than the second edition that was printed in Amsterdam (1657). With the fine plates of such animals as an elephant with its driver, famous different horses, a stranded sperm whale, but also the more dramatic "draco's" depicted after "aldro" (Aldrovandus) and the Hydra with seven heads. Most plates are quite accurate and the animals depicted are easily identifiable to the species level. Some, however, are rather vague; perhaps composites or entirely mythological. The "serpentibus" is bound after the "insectibus", the "exanvibus aqvaticis" after the "piscibus" (as usual). The part on snakes and dragons, and the one on molluscs, have a "regular" title page with a large vignette; all the others have a frontispiece-like title page, with the title as part of the engraving. Several plates bound out of sequence. A few pates with old paper repairs. The combined index to volumes IV and V much toned. Several text pages browned, the plates usually in much better condition. Rear endpapers of volumes II, IV, V, and VI with ink annotations in an old hand. A few plate figures, and several text page margins also with additional captions in an old hand. Provenance: "Prof Rey" handwritten on a few front pastedowns and title page margins. Very few complete copies of the first edition ever came to auction and the portrait is often lacking, as in this set. In all, a nicely bound, uniform set printed on rather thin paper (as usual) with age-toning, especially in the text and margins, and other minor defects being the result of over 350 years of use, but most engravings cleaner, with a strong impression and overall a good to very good set. Dean III, pp. 264-265; Nissen IVB, 482; Nissen ZBI, 2131-2135.