Paris, Mission du Mexique et dans l'Amérique Centrale, 1874-. Large 4to (35.5 x 27.5 cm). Title to the Zoology section, title to part IV, half title to the ichthyology, [i ("avis"), 265 pp.; 31 plates, numbered 1-16, 1bis, 1ter, 5bis, 5ter, 5quat, 8bis, 9bis, 10bis, 10ter, 11quint (error for 10quint?), 11bis, 11ter, 11quat, 13bis, 13ter; all with original descriptive text leaves, of which 26 in fine chromolithography with additional hand-colouring; plates 1bis, and 1ter tinted, and plates 9bis, 10ter, and 10quint plain, as always. Printed wrappers to part IV, dated 1874, bound in. Contemporary half morocco over marbled boards. Spine with five raised bands, and gilt title. Marbled endpapers. Top edge gilt.
A fine and unique "over"-complete copy of this superbly illustrated work on the fishes of Central America and the Caribbean, with the descriptions and illustrations of many new and poorly known species. The work forms part four of the Mission Scientifique comprising 13 volumes. This volume is particularly rare, as it was published in instalments over a period of over no less than 40 years. Even more exceptional are the following plates, present in this copy, that have NEVER BEEN RECORDED BEFORE: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 11bis, 11ter, 11quat, 13bis, and 13ter. "Normal", complete copies have 20 plates. This one has 11 more. Previously, it was thought that plate 11quint was an error for 10quint. However, with all the additional, otherwise unpublished plates present, 11quint, although placed here after 10quat., may indeed follow plate 11quat. Many of the fine coloured plates, heightened with gum-arabic, are by Bocourt and lithographed by Mesnel. "This well-known study of Central American natural history was issued in parts, some of the sections being still incomplete" (Wood). Léon Louis Vaillant (1834-1914) was a noted French ichthyologist and herpetologist and professor of reptiles and fishes at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris and "thus came to hold the chair of Count de Lacepède and Dumérils and inherited responsibility for the then-largest collections of reptiles and fishes in the world" (Adler). Marie Firmin Bocourt (1819-1904) combined zoological knowledge with great artistic qualities. It was in fact he who initiated the Mission scientifique series, together with the ichthyologist and herpetologist Auguste Duméril (1812-1870). "Exemplaire unique de la bibliothèque Vaillant" appears in gilt on the spine foot of this copy. This indicates that the book was from Vaillant's library. However, it must have been bound, or adjusted, after his death, as it includes a notice of his passing: "Après la mort de M. le professeur Léon Vaillant, il a été impossible de retrouver la fin de son manuscrit sur Les Poissons du Mexique. En conséquence cette livraison sera dernière et clôturera le volume" (the "Avis" preceding the text). Some scattered, mostly marginal foxing to a few plates, otherwise a very good, clean copy. Dean II, p. 574; Nissen ZBI, 4210, 4694.