Martinet, Francois-Nicolas

Francoise Nicolas Martinet (1760-1800)

Histoire Naturelle Des Oiseaux, by George Louise Marie Leclerc, Comte de Buffon


Hand-colored copperplate engravings

Francois Nicolas Martinet, engraved illustrations of birds for books by some of the most influential ornithologists in 18th-century France. Born in 1731, Martinet was trained as an engineer and draftsman. Engraving illustration for books probably began as a secondary profession, but as his popularity and output grew it must have consumed the majority of his time. Martinet's son, Alexandre, eventually assisted him and made many engravings, as is known from signatures and dates on the prints. Martinet also had two sisters, Angelique and Marie Therese, who were engravers as well, but it is not known if they worked with him. Towards the end of his career, Martinet drew upon his experience in engraving birds for others to publish his own ornithology books, producing plates until his death.

This edition, containing 1,008 images by Martinet, was certainly the most ambitious and comprehensive bird book, which had appeared at the time of its publication. Martinet complete both the original drawing and hand-engraved all of the copperplate. A broad spectrum of birds are shown, including birds native to Europe. as well as exotic tropical birds, such as parrots and toucans. Each is rendered in a scientific manner, outlined in a yellow border. They are distinctly 18th century in conception and style, generally with a hint of the bird's habitat, such as a tree branch, rock or water.