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Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles de quadrupe`des: ou l'on re´tablit les caracte`res de plusieurs espe`ces d'animaux que les re´volutions du globe paroissent avoir de´truites. Tome I-IV

by Cuvier, Georges

  • Hardback £2,400.00
  • Used Book Availability : In stock
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  • Catalogue No : 37982
  • Published : 1812
  • Cover : Hardback
  • Publisher : Chez Deterville
  • Published In : Paris
  • Illustrations : 157 engraved plates (some folding), including a large folding hand-coloured map


Scarce first edition of a work which laid the foundation of vertebrate paleontology (Horblit, One Hundred Books, 20b). The separately paginated memoirs, many of which first appeared in 'Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. Paris', are here reissued in revised form, prefaced by the important 'Discours preliminaire'.

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was an outstanding French naturalist who helped to found the fields of vertebrate paleontology and comparative anatomy. He was professor of comparative anatomy at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris. As Martin J. S. Rudwick states 'It is difficult to overestimate the huge impact of Cuvier on zoology, paleontology, and geology.' Significant and highly influential results of Cuvier's palaeontological and geological research were presented in a series of essays, published in these four volumes, Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles de quadrupe`ds (Paris, 1812).

Rudwick notes that Cuvier ‘called himself “a new species of antiquarian,” who was using fossil bones instead of human artifacts as historical evidence. He therefore argued that naturalists such as himself could and should aspire to “burst the limits of time,” … just as astronomers such as Pierre-Simon de Laplace (to whom he dedicated his Ossemens fossiles) had already “burst the limits of space".

Vol. 1 includes Discours préliminaire in which Cuvier introduced the idea of geological ‘revolutions’ to explain mass extinctions of prehistoric species. Other papers include an essay on an Egyptian ibis mummy brought from Thebes during Napoleon's campaign in Egypt; and with Alexandre Brogniart (1770-1847) an updated version of Cuvier's important stratigraphical memoir of 1810, Essai sur la Géographie Minéralogique des Environs de Paris, which contributed to the concept of faunal succession in rock strata of different periods. In Vol. 2 Cuvier describes species of pachyderms found in recent alluvial deposits, including elephants, mastodons, rhinoceros, hippopotamus and tapir. In Vol. 3 Cuvier's recalls the challenges of reconstruing fossils of different species. Vol. 4 concerns fossil horses and pigs, bears, hyenas and big cats and concludes by describing fossil sloths, crocodiles, turtles, and marine dinosaurs.

Nissen ZBI 1011; BM(NH) Cat. I, p. 409.


4 vols, 4to (283x215mm), orig. paper covered boards, heavily rubbed/worn, spines chipped, gilt rules and leather title labels to spines; wide margins with edges uncut; some foxing and browning, a few short marginal tears; one folding plate damaged - creased and torn with loss to several figures; 6cm tear to inner margin of another large folding plate.

Pagination: Vol. I: [8], vi, 120, 20, viii, 278, [2], 23, [1]; Vol. II: [4], 10, 12, 21, [1], 33, [1], 30, 24, 20, 6, 140, 43, [1], 20, 4; Vol. III: [4], 3, [1], 8, 174, 21, [1], 14, 75, [1], 20, 7, [1], 8, 2, 16, 21, [1], 4, 20; Vol. IV: 7, [1], 5, [3], 66, 38, 10, [2], 72, 18, 20, 30, 9, [1], 27, [1], 43, [1], 40, [2], 59, [1], 26, 38, 32, 37, [1], 16.

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