Mémoire sur le nouveau genre Pyrosoma
Price: 3,600.00 AUD
Paris: An XII, that is, 1804. Quarto, hand-coloured plate and 10 pp.; some toning, but an excellent copy in modern marbled paper wrappers. Very rare indeed: the first printing of one of Péron's earliest scientific articles based on his work during the Baudin voyage. In 1804, newly returned from the voyage, Péron was living in Paris, where he and Lesueur began work on the official Baudin account. He had been resigned to the fact that by sending many of his specimens home, the scientific descriptions of a great number fell to important figures like Cuvier and Jussieu. On his return, however, he pressed on to publish several essays of his own, and one of the first was this essay on "Pyrosoma", bioluminescent organisms common to warm waters (from the Greek pyro "fire", soma "body"). His work on unheralded sea creatures like pyrosoma was the product of his tremendous collecting enthusiasm; he and Lesueur had been overwhelmed and delighted with the myriad different oceanic species they had discovered during the voyage, and later commented that 'their number and diversity afforded an inexhaustible fund of pleasure, and were the subject of philosophical enthusiasm' (quoted in Duyker, François Péron, p. 87). 'Péron's work on jellyfish would ultimately include pioneering observations of their anatomy and physiology, and the collection of many previously undescribed species' (Duyker, p. 64). It was for this reason that the various mollusca and zoophytes he collected were so beautifully illustrated in the official account: the subject of the present article, the Pyrosoma atlanticum, was later figured at the upper left corner of plate 30 of the Atlas. The species is also, interestingly, one of only a handful to now be named after Péron, as its official nomenclature has since been updated to Pyrosoma atlanticum Péron, 1804. Any separate scientific publication relating to the voyage is a rarity: very few indeed survive, probably because of the limited audience to which they were distributed. Although not noted here, this article was published the same year in Annales du Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle (pp. 437-46); this does confirm, however, that the present article, newly paginated, is a proper offprint rather than simply an extract from the museum journal. Such offprints, where they exist, are recognised as the original editions since they normally precede the journal printing and were typically done in very limited numbers for the author to distribute.