Description des arts et métiers faites ou approuvées par Messieurs de l'Académie royale des sciences
A Paris, chez Saillant & Nyon, Desaint, Imprimerie L. F. Delatour, Imprimerie Moutard, H.L. Guerin, 1761-1783
22 volumes in-folio (45 x 31 cm).
Bound in full contemporary calf, spines richly decorated, red and havana Morocco title pieces, gilt filleting on the boards and the edges, red edges. The volumes 1 to 13 are in homogeneous binding, the volumes 14 to 18 of the same format present a slightly different decoration, the last 4 are also different but the whole homogeneous. (Some scratches and epidermures, some slightly worn caps and tails, some dull corners.) First edition.
A true encyclopedia of arts and techniques, the Description des Arts et Métiers was born under the impulse of the Académie des Sciences created by Colbert in order to promote the development of sciences. The Academy having formed the project of a general History of Arts, it is on the impulse of the physicist and naturalist René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur (1683-1757) that notes and drawings are gathered on several subjects, the latter being in charge of collecting the Memoirs of Academicians and other scholars in France and abroad. Réaumur himself contributed several articles, which, although some of them were read at the Academy, were not published until many years later, sometimes with additions.
At his death in 1757, Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau (1700-1782) was entrusted with the continuation of this editorial enterprise. In 1761, the first booklet, L'Art du charbonnier, ou Manière de faire le charbon de bois (The Art of the charcoal-maker, or How to make charcoal), was finally published. The publication of the booklets continued regularly until 1782, with sometimes the plates and the texts revised and corrected by the same authors or others (many of these works having been spread over several years), before ending in 1788 with the Art of the pewter potter. The descriptions are illustrated with beautiful, accurate plates, drawn and engraved on copperplate in intaglio by the most skilful artists of the second half of the 18th century, including Patte, Gardette, Saint-Aubin, Caffieri, Goussier, Roubo, etc. Scholars, specialists and professionals have contributed to the elaboration of this true documentation on the craft. Among them: Réaumur, Courtrivon, Roland De La Platière, Lalande, Abbé Nollet, Garsault, Gallon, Macquer, Bedos De Celles, Romme, Fourcroy De Ramecourt, Chapman, Malouin, Dudin, Fougeroux De Bondaroy, Fougeroux D'angerville, Roubo, Perret, Paulet, Duc De Chaulnes, Hulot, Morand, Saint-Aubin, Demachy, Salmon, Vieil, Lucotte, etc.
Our series of 22 volumes is composed of a hundred or so quires illustrated with a frontispiece, 1584 plates, many of which are double-page and/or folding, and 8 tables. In its Avertissement au Tome 1, it is written that "The Academy gives the description of the Arts by separate quires with all the necessary details represented in plates engraved with care. Published separately, it was thus possible for artists to obtain these treatises of the arts they practice without being obliged to buy at the same time others which would be less necessary to them".
The different Arts are bound here according to the order of publication of these books. Although incomplete with a few treatises, this encyclopedia of arts and techniques was, even at that time, extremely rarely complete. Our copy is incomplete with the first 3 sections of L'Art du facteur d'orgue and pages 621-622 of the 4th section (T19), as well as with pl. 79 of L'Art du fabricant d'étoffes de soie (T21), the Traité général des pesches which is missing the 1st and 2nd sections of the 1st part and the 4th section of the 2nd part (with pl 18 of Tome 9 attached separately to the work), as well as the Art d'exploiter les mines which is missing a few leaves. The treatises not bound here are : Art du paumier-raquetier et de la paume by Garsault (1767), Art de fabriquer la brique et la tuile en Hollande by Jars (1767), Nouvelle méthode pour diviser les instruments de mathématique et d'astronomie et Description d'un microscope by the Duc de Chaulnes (1768), and Art du pottier d'étain by Salmon (1788). Some of these treatises, revised and enlarged, as well as new ones were published in Neuchatel by Bertrand between 1771 and 1783.
Overall, some freckling, spotting and soiling, a few browned leaves and plates, some traces of moisture and wetness (important to about twenty pl of T11), a few plates cut short in margins (with slight loss of image pl. 13 Art of the glazier T14), slight bleeding of the red of the edges on pp and pl of T3, the title of the Fabric Manufacturer partly disbound, a few misplaced and miscalculated ff., a few endpapers lightly damaged or formerly restored. Nevertheless a good copy of this rare work, in a relatively uniform binding. Graesse II, 366; Brunet II, 618