RENARD, Louis (1678/9-1746).
Poissons Ecrevisses et Crabes, de diverses couleurs et figures extraordinaires, que l'on trouve autour des Isles Moluques et sur les cotes des Terres Australes
Amsterdam: Reinier and Josué Ottens, 1754. 2 volumes in one, folio. (15 3/4 x 10 1/8 inches). Half-title. Title printed in red and black, engraved arms of George II of England on dedication. 100 hand-coloured engraved plates after Fallours (one folding, each showing two or more subjects).
Contemporary calf, spine with raised bands in seven compartments, red morocco lettering piece in the second, the others with a repeat decoration in gilt, gilt edges. Modern cloth box with leather label.
One of the rarest and most desirable works of natural history, containing brilliantly hand colored plates of marine life from the East Indies, at the time virtually unknown to Europe.
This extraordinary work purports to show marine life from the East Indies at a time when the natural wildlife of that area was virtually unknown in Europe. Noted as one of very few pre-Linnaean works on fishes to be published in color, the work was first published in 1719 in an edition of only 100 copies. Following Renard's death, the Ottens publishing firm purchased approximately thirty unbound copies of the first edition, as well as the original copperplates, from Renard's estate. They had the remaining plates hand coloured and printed approximately 70 additional sets, replaced the title-page with a new one, and added a preface by Aernout Vosmaer and a "Declaration" by Renard. This second edition, also limited to 100 copies, is noted for its superb hand colouring.
Louis Renard (1678-1746) was a French Huguenot refugee who became a successful book seller and publisher based in Amsterdam, as well as a spy for the British Crown. The plates were engraved after drawings by Samuel Fallours, brought back to Amsterdam from Amboina in the East Indies by Frederik Julius Coyett, son of the Governor Baltazar Coyett. Fallours began his career as a soldier in the service of the Dutch East India Company, and later between 1707 and 1712, held the title of Associate Curate to the clergy. As early as 1703 his artistic abilities were discovered by several important officials, also in the employ of the Company.
"When he (Fallours) showed his portfolio of watercolours to the Directors of the East India Company at Amsterdam, they could or would not believe that such fish really existed. So, to convince these gentlemen, Fallours had written a letter to the Reverend Francois Valentijn (1666-1727), who had also spent many years in the East Indies. In his letter, Fallours asked Valentijn to confirm to the Governors that the fishes which he had painted actually existed. Valentijn complied by writing on August 28th 1715, ... `I can assure you in all honesty that in the waters around Ambon and the other islands belonging to the Moluccan Archipelago I have observed a wide variety of fish whose colours are as variegated and brilliant as Fallours has painted. I have seen his watercolours and can vouch that these fishes have been drawn and coloured from life...'. Writing over one hundred years later, Bleeker remarked, 'Although these figures are partly exaggerated and partly unrecognizable, it later proved that practically every one of them is based on a natural object.' It was Louis Renard, one of the charges d'affaires of H.M. King George II of England in Amsterdam, who decided to publish this material" (Landwehr, pp. 44-45).
The plates depict 416 fishes, 40 crustaceans, 2 insects, a dugong, and a mermaid. Despite their fanciful appearance, modern scientists have identified the species depicted in most of the illustrations (the mermaid excepted). The work contains no text apart from the engraved descriptions on the plates themselves, in which almost every fish is named and some assessed in terms of its edibility (with some descriptions including brief recipes for preparation).
A beautiful example of the most fantastic book on East Indian ocean life and "one of the most remarkable Dutch books with coloured plates" (Landwehr).
Landwehr 159; Nissen ZBI 3361; Nissen Schone Fischbucher 103; cf. Pietsch, Fishes, Crayfishes, and Crabs... Baltimore: 1995, pp. 22-26.