BELON, Pierre [Petri Bellonii] (c.1517-1564)
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De aquatilibus, Libri duo. Cum eiconibus ad vivam ipsorum effigiem, quoad eius fieri potuit, expressis.
Carolum Stephanum, Paris, 1553. Pierre Gourdelle (illustrator). Oblong octavo (117 x 177 mm). pp. (32), 448, with 187 woodcuts of fish and aquatic animals, many full page, in the text. Contemporary vellum with original title in ink on spine. Some pages browned, see images. Belon (1517- 1564), was a Renaissance scientist and based his work on true observation, rectifying what Aristotle, Oppianus, Pliny and other classical authors had written. He divided aquatic animals into two divisions, those provided with blood and those without, corresponding to the modern taxa: Vertebrata and Invertebrata. They were classified according to size, differences in the structure of the skeleton, mode of reproduction, number of limbs, body form and on the physical characteristics of the habitat (Pietsch, 1995). There are drawings of 110 species of fish. Nearly all the marine fishes are Mediterranean but there are also species of the Atlantic region obtained from the Paris market. Marine mammals, crabs, lobsters, shellfish, oysters and cockles are depicted as well. See another copy of Belon's De aquatilibus (1553), on this web site as well.
Other descriptions and drawings refer, however, to fabulous animals like the horse of Neptune, the sea monk and the sea eagle. The existence of these animals was not clearly denied by Belon. The fact that they were illustrated was enough to validate the stories which gave birth to them, and many later books reproduced them unaltered (Dance, 1978). Stamp on p. 299 and 446 [not affecting text or images]: Loci Cappuccinorum Veronae with religious motives. A few ms. notes in ink in contemporary hand.
A handsome copy of the rare Latin first edition in a contemporary vellum binding.