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Original price £4,000.00 - Original price £4,000.00
Original price
£4,000.00 - £4,000.00
Current price £4,000.00

Réaumur, René-Antoine Ferchault de: Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire des insectes. Par M. de Réaumur, de l’Academie Royale des Sciences. À Paris, de l’Imprimerie Royale 1734[-1742].

A fine copy of a landmark work of natural science. “Elected to the Academie des Sciences at age 24, Reaumur applied his talents to many fields of science, physical as well as biological [...] There are [here] described the effect of heat on the development of insects and their larvae, on the leaf-boring and gall-forming insects, the metamorphoses of the caddis worm, the caterpillars of the China mark moth and the May fly. His process of experimentation using methods for “interrogating nature” have set a pattern in experimental biology” (Dibner).

“Réaumur was among the greatest naturalists of his or any age. In the breadth and range of his researches, in the patient detail of his observations, and in the brilliant ingenuity of his experiments, it would be difficult to name his equal. Thomas Henry Huxley has compared him favourably with Darwin” (DSB).

A set from the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, the only student society in the United Kingdom with a royal charter, founded (as the Medical Society of Edinburgh), in 1737. Members included Darwin, who studied medicine at Edinburgh between 1825 and 1827. Bored with his formal studies, Darwin took advantage at Edinburgh of opportunities to study zoology and natural history. This set in his club library may even have been read by him.

While the stamps in our copy state “Medical Society, Edinburgh” (its name, 1737-1778), the spine decorations incorporate crowns, which may date its present bindings to after 1778, when the society was granted the royal charter. Much of the library was sold in sales at Sotheby’s, London, 1969.


Six volumes, 26.2 cms. x 20.2 cms. in binding, quarto, 267 plates in all (vol. 1: 50 plates; vol. 2: 40 plates; vol. 3: 47 plates; vol. 4: 44 plates; vol. 5: 38 plates; Vol. 6: 48 plates). Pagination: [4] 654 [2]; [4] xlvi [2] 514; [4] xl, 532; xxxiv [4] 636; [4] xliv, 728; [4] lxxx, 608. Intaglio headpieces showing insect-catching. Light browning, some foxing, uniformly bound in brown mottled calf, spine with five raised bands, elaborately decorated in gilt with title stamped in gilt on red goatskin and volume number in gilt on green goatskin. Marbled pastedowns and endpapers, green silk ribbons, all edges red. (Slight wear to corners, minute loss to a couple of tailpieces of spine, slight soiling to spines, but a very good set).


  1. Medical Society of Edinburgh, their stamps to plates, (probably) their manuscript shelfmarks (18th-cent.?) to front pastedowns and endpapers.
  2. Bookplates of Eric de Bellaigue.


Conlon 34:657. Dibner #192. Nissen 3315. Catalogue of the Library of the Royal Medical Society (Edinburgh, 1896), p. 90 (this copy).

Adrian Desmond, James Moore, Janet Browne, ‘Darwin, Charles Robert (1809-1882)’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online, 28 May 2015 (last accessed by us 18 April 2023).