Histoire des Oiseaux

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Histoire des Oiseaux


vulture head


owl head

Chinese birds




Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill head









buzzard head

"François Nicolas Martinet engraved illustrations of birds for books by some of the most influential ornithologists in 18th-century France. Born in 1731, Martinet was trained as an engineer and draftsman. Engraving illustrations for books probably began as a secondary profession, but as his popularity and output grew it must have consumed the majority of his time. Martinet's son Alexandre eventually assisted him and made many engravings, as is known from signatures and dates on the prints. Martinet also had two sisters, Angélique and Marie Thérèse, who were engravers as well, but it is not known if they worked with him. Towards the end of his career, Martinet drew upon his experience in engraving birds for others to publish his own ornithology books, producing plates until his death sometime in the late 1780s or early 1790s (sources disagree on the year).

To understand the significance of François Martinet's work, it is important first to recognize the difficulties involved in producing illustrations of birds in the 18th century. This provides a foundation for viewing the development of Martinet’s bird illustrations and their contribution to works that became classics in the history of ornithology and makes possible a fuller appreciation of the beautiful hand-colored plates in Ornithologie, the folio reproduced in this digital edition."

The detailed historical and bibliographic article about Martinet's legacy (by Leslie K. Overstreet and Kathryn E. Zaharek) provides an overview and introduction to a marvellous (and old) website from the Smithsonian Institution: 'Ornithologie by François Nicolas Martinet'.

The above images (extensively background cleaned) are a small selection from the more than one hundred and seventy plates available in large size format at the Smithsonian site. I'm fairly sure I've posted a couple of them before from their original publications - under a different author - but I can't seem to locate them. At least my tastes are consistent.

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