A Pair of Engravings of Birds by François Nicolas Martinet, from Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux, 1770-1786.

Circa 1770.


Why we like them

Beautifully engraved and retaining their vivid colours, from Martinet's iconic, "...certainly the most ambitious & comprehensive bird book", Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux.


Original hand-colored copper-plate engravings, each signed in the bottom of the yellow border, framed in French mats and water-gilded frames.



Over the course of his splendid career, François Nicolas Martinet (1731-1790?) engraved illustrations of birds for some of the most influential naturalists in 18th-century France, including François Salèrne, Mathurin Brisson, and, above all, Georges Louis Leclerc, le comte de Buffon.  


This exceptional pair of hand-colored engravings is from Georges Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon's work Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux, published in Paris from 1770 to 1786, for which Francois Nicolas Martinet provided all of the illustrations.


Histoire Naturelle was the most comprehensive and noted ornithological work of the 1700s. It included a broad variety of birds native to Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

Martinet was one of the greatest birds artists of the 18th century. He worked for the French court as an engraver and artist. Martinet's illustrations are accurate and beautifully artistic.


Comte de Buffon was a respected naturalist and scientist. Buffon dared to challenge religious thought decades before Darwin. He suggested the Earth was older than 6,000 years and the common ancestry of apes and humans.


He directed the Jardin des Plantes botanical garden in Paris, which still exists today. His most outstanding achievement came in the field of natural history with the publication of the monumental Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière (1749–1788) in 36 volumes, for which Martinet created all the bird illustrations which were also published separately in Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux.


Fine antique condition.

Pair of Engravings of Birds by François Nicolas Martinet

  • Frames:

    44.5 cm by 57.5 cm

    (17.5 in by 22.75 in)


    Colour Plates:

    22 cm by 29 cm

    (8.75 in by 11.5 in)

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