Pre-Darwinian theorist’s $8,200 essay on monkeys leads Paris auction
This little known document by theorist Saint-Hilaire will sell alongside a four century family archive
Later this month there is a sale which collectors of historical manuscripts will not want to miss. Auctioneer Lafon Castandet is offering an auction of Ancient Books & Manuscripts with Books, Comic Books and Autographs going under the hammer.
Much of the sale is based around the Léonce-Abel Mazoyer Collection. Two lots immediately catch the eye:
First, there is a set of documents concerning the family of Bretagne, dating from 1561 to 1859, on parchment and paper, charts, correspondence, wills, some printed pieces, some shipments on stamped paper.
This beautiful family archive, spanning four centuries tracks an important family of Burgundy, who included many parliamentarians. Philippe Lazare Britain had married Alexandrine Coeurderoy in 1804, hence the association of two families in this set.
An inventory of these papers, dated 1948, identifies three particular detailed genealogical tables below. The earliest document is dated September 23, 1561, collated copy of the certificate of service given to Britain by Jean Francois de Mandelot governor for the king in the Lyonnais and Beaujolais Drill.
There are many interesting documents from Burgundy, whose title dated 1627 establishes Nicolas of Brittany as squire of Louis XIII. The lot is expected to sell for €1,000-2,000 (up to $2,700).
For collectors of scientific documents, the clear stand-out is an essay on monkeys written by Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in the 1820s. Saint-Hailaire (15 April 1772-19 June 1844) was a French naturalist and colleague of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck expanded and defended Lamarck's evolutionary theories.
He died long before Darwin and Wallace brought forth their theory of evolution by natural selection, (the Origin of Species being published in 1859) but argued for the possibility of one species changing into another.
This little known work from the cusp of the discovery of mankind's origins (Saint-Hilaire was caricatured as an ape for his ideas) is expected to sell for €4,000-6,000 (up to $8,200) in the sale, which takes place in Paris on February 25.
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Images: Lafon Castandet