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FORSTER, Johann Reinhold.

Descriptiones animalium, quae in itinere ad maris Australis terras per annos 1772, 1773 et 1774

suscepto collegit observavit et delineavit Ioannes Reinoldus Forster Regiae Societatis Scientiarum Londinensis sodalis nunc demum editae auctoritate et impensis Academie Litterarum Regiae Berolinae curante H. Lichtenstein Academiae Socio.

Berlin: Ex Officina Academica, 1844 Stock Code: 140525
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Uncut in original boards

First edition of Forster's study of the Australasian fauna encountered on Cook's second voyage, listing 305 animal species; "the most important zoological work with full results" (Rookmaaker, p. 48). This a particularly desirable tall copy in the original boards, largely unopened. LibraryHub cites copies at just 4 British libraries (BL, ZLS, Cambridge, and Natural History Museum).

A distinguished naturalist, Forster (1729-1798) was employed as official naturalist on Cook's second voyage, accompanied by his son Georg (1754-1794) as an assistant; "the elder Forster proved to be a highly capable scientist and a keen observer - his works proved him a veritable genius in many disciplines - but he had a disagreeable personality and alienated the expedition's staff" (Rosove).

The seven-decade delay in publishing the work impeded its immediate scientific influence: "The work was finished in outline as early as August 1775, only 3 weeks after return from the voyage. However, Forster continued to work on the manuscript while in London until 1780. It was in fact ready for publication but feuds and debts again intervened. In 1787, the Göttingen publisher C. Dietrich was willing to publish it and a manuscript of 458 pages was available. Forster wanted engravings to accompany the Latin text, Dietrich wanted a German text. No compromise could be reached. The manuscript later passed to the Royal Library in Berlin in 1799... The manuscript was published as late as 1844 edited by Martin Hinrich Karl Lichtenstein (1780-1857), curator since 1813 of the zoological museum in Berlin... the publication was an important event because it allows an evaluation of Forster's zoological work on Cook's voyage. In 1844, however, the Descriptiones animalium had become a document of historical importance rather than of scientific value. Had Forster published it around 1780, many animals would now carry names which he proposed in the Descriptiones animalium" (Rookmaaker p. 48).

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Octavo. Uncut and unopened in the original boards, spine and front cover lettered in black. Housed in a brown cloth flat-back box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Very light soiling and very minor peripheral wear to boards, contents clean; a superb, well-preserved example.


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