Sur l'identité des deux espèces nominales d'Ornithorhynque; (Lu à l'Académie des Sciences le 18 décembre 1826)
[BOUGAINVILLE] GEOFFROY SAINT-HILAIRE, Étienne
Price: 3,200.00 AUD
Paris: Annales des Sciences Naturelles, 1826. 12 pp., caption-title; tipped into a modern binding of quarter linen and boards. The renowned French zoologist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire on the platypus: an important study, read to the Académie des Sciences and set up in print for publication in the appropriate learned journal. This is a very rare separate offprint (paginated 1 to 8 for separate issue rather than simply being clipped from its journal version). Saint-Hilaire here discusses research into the platypus made possible by the delivery of a brace of the monotremes by Hyacinthe de Bougainville, commander of the Thétis expedition just returned to Paris from the southern ocean. He discusses work by Shaw in England, reports by Péron from the Baudin expedition, and work by other eminent naturalists in Europe. The second half of the text is the most controversial, occupied by vigorous debate about ideas promulgated by the German naturalist Meckel in his ground-breaking Ornithorhynchi Paradoxi published just weeks previously. Meckel's first full separate study of the animal concentrated on the animal's reproductive system and especially the mammary glands of the female. Saint-Hilaire objected strenuously to this approach, asserting that the relevant glands were in fact odoriferous and designed only to attract a mate. Saint-Hilaire was, of course, plain wrong, but that didn't become clear for decades. Meanwhile in the furious debates about the classification of the platypus of the 1820s and 1830s, Saint-Hilaire occupied centre-stage. (Some years ago we handled the sale of a collection of his manuscript drafts and notes on the subject, which showed just how controversial the whole subject became). It was Saint-Hilaire himself who had coined the term "Monotremata" as early as 1803. He had been appointed professor of quadrupeds, cetaceans, birds, reptiles and fish at the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle in 1793 at the young age of twenty-one. He travelled with Napoleon's campaign to Egypt, but it was his long study of the museum's mammalian collection that made him famous, and led to comparisons with Cuvier (although the two men fell out in 1829). During his tenure he published a series of articles and monographs on the platypus, stubbornly holding that it must be a vertebrate, and refusing to believe that it could possibly be a mammal. In fine condition.