Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d’Argenville
(1680–1765) was a French courtier, intellectual and amateur natural historian. Fascinated by seashells, he authored one of his era’s most lavish books, dedicate to the rarest and most beautiful examples. La Conchyliologie ou Histoire Naturelle des Coquilles de Mer
, d’Eau Douce, Terrestres et Fossiles
, published in 1780, was a summation of 18th century conchology, with drawings so vivid they sparked a Parisian fad for natural history.The natural beauty of seashells has enchanted cultures around the world since time immemorial.
The "recreation of the eye and mind" inspired by them has been celebrated in literature and throughout humanist circles across Europe since antiquity: in his De oratore
, the classical scholar Cicero extolled the value of the leisure and friendship cultivated by two friends who spent their leisurely hours collecting shells. These wonderful marine forms
—"the artifice of nature"—were considered capable of elevating the spirit and stimulating the senses, as well as refining the taste and creativity of artists. Throughout history, their innumerable shapes, crenulations, and vast variety of colors and patterns have inspired painters and jewelers, architects and textile designers, sculptors and furniture makers, gunsmiths and glass-blowers.
TASCHEN’s complete reprint of these 80 splendid hand-colored copper engraved plates,
rendered in exquisite detail and the subtlest colors, is taken from one of the finest original copies.
The copy belongs to Claire Cernoia, President of Vasari Rare Books & Prints, vasaribooks.com