Editio secunda … Die Figuren und Contrafacturen von allerley vierfüssigen Thieren. [With:] Nomenclator Aquatilium Animantium. Icones animalium aquatilium in mari & dulcibus aquis … Figuren und Contrafacturen von allerley Fischen und anderen Thieren/ die im meer und süssen wassern gefunden werden …
Zurich, Conrad Froschauer, 1560.
Folio (396 x 245mm), I. pp. 137, 11, with contemporary hand coloured woodcut printer’s device and a separate handcoloured woodcut of a bird on title and 229 contemporary handcoloured woodcuts of birds, last leaf with handcoloured woodcut portrait of Gesner; II. pp. 127, , with contemporary handcoloured printer’s device on title and 149 contemporary handcoloured woodcuts; III. pp. [xxviii], 374, , with 737 contemporary handcoloured woodcuts; the first few leaves with old creases and a few minor repairs to marginal tears, a fine copy in contemporary calf, both covers gilt with large centre- and corner gilt cartouches, fleurons at corners, richly floral gilt spine with gilt animal ornaments (spine rebacked preserving original spine), gilt edges.
A finely coloured set of the complete ‘Icones Animalium’, which comprises the complete series of woodcuts from Gesner’s ‘Historia Animalium’ (1551-1558), along with some that appear in this edition for the first time. This was the greatest zoological encyclopedia of the sixteenth century and the greatest pictorial assembly of zoological illustration of its time. The ‘Icones’ utilizes the entire assembly of woodcuts, but largely eliminates the text, apart from the nomenclature.
I. The ‘Historia animalium de avium’ woodcuts are the second important suite of ornithological iconography, being roughly contemporary with those of Belon published the same year. They are the precursors of many of Aldrovandi’s illustrations, many of which were copied from Gesner.
II. The ‘Historia animalium de quadrupedium viviparis’ was the first of Gesner’s great encyclopedias of the animal kingdom, and the first systematic treatise on zoology of the Renaissance. The illustrations are the first original zoological illustrations and the first naturalistic representations of animals to be published. As such they herald the birth of zoological book illustration. They are the archetypes of much subsequent animal illustrations, even into the eighteenth century.
III. The ‘Historia animalium de piscium & aquatilium’ was Gesner’s history of fish and aquatic animals. The woodcuts form the fourth great series of ichthyological illustrations, after Belon (1551), Rondelet
(1554) and Salviani (1554), but are also the first general series of marine illustrations (including conchology), not confined to fish.
All of the woodcuts in outstanding contemporary publisher’s colouring, executed by a professional book illuminator; the palate is rich and varied, using a lot of body colour. Gesner in his preface states that a number of copies with hand-coloured woodcuts were issued ‘for customers who are not deterred by the higher price’. Their number was very small indeed, and they scarcely ever appear on the market. This is in a very attractive contemporary richly gilt decorated binding, with gilt edges, and must have been commissioned by a wealthy customer. The ‘Icones Animalium’ is the most suitable edition of Gesner’s works to be coloured as the woodcuts dominate the pages, making this work particularly attractive. The woodcuts were cut after paintings by Lukas Schan, some of which survive as part of the Felix Patter collection in the Basle University Library. This suite of woodcuts contains the first naturalistic representations of the animal kingdom, and effectively heralds the birth of zoological book illustration. They are the archetypes of much subsequent animal illustrations, even into the eighteenth century.
The ‘Icones Avium’ and ‘Icones Animalium Quadrupedum’ are in the second edition, the last volume on fishes in the first edition. ‘The title pages … bear subtitles in Italian, French and German, probably because they were aimed at a larger market and at people who could no longer read Latin. These are the only title pages of Gesner’s original works with text in vernacular languages. The illustrations themselves also carry captions in all four languages’ (Wellisch, Conrad Gessner. A Bio-Biography p. 69).
Nissen ZBI 1551 and IVB 352; Wellisch A 30.2; A 29.2; A 31.1; see Horblit 39 and PMM 77 for the ‘Historia animalium’ (1551-1558)