MÉTHODE DE PRÉPARER ET CONSERVER LES ANIMAUX DE TOUTES LES CLASSES, pour les cabinets d’histoire naturelle. Avec dix planches gravées en taille-douche. A Paris, Chez F. Buisson, Imp.-Lib. rue Hautefeuille, no. 20. An IX.
1801. 8vo, pp. [vi], viii,  - 228,  blank; with 10 folding engraved plates; some occasional light soiling and spotting, but otherwise clean and crisp; contemporary calf-backed marbled boards, spine tooled in gilt with red morocco label, light rubbed to head and tail of spine and joints, fore-edge of upper board nicked splitting paper, corners a little bumped, extremities rubbed and lightly worn. First edition of this contribution to the growing number of taxidermy handbooks published during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, in response to growing demands amongst the wider scientific community for better methods of preserving natural history specimens.
The French physician and biologist Pierre-François Nicolas (1743-1816) taught natural history at the university at Nancy between 1795-1798. After resigning, he worked in Paris for two years before becoming professor of chemistry in Caen in 1801. In the present work, Nicolas presents a summary of contemporary knowledge and practices of the day. The ten folding plates, drawn by himself, illustrate the tools required, and the methods for preserving various animals, birds, insects and reptiles. Nicolas is critical of a number of contemporary methods which he deems to be inadequate, offering up many of his own techniques as being superior. In particular, he addresses the problem of insect damage to specimens. The use of poison to deter insects was a matter of some debate at the time, and many were trying to find alternative methods. It was believed that the insects were attracted to bird skins in particular by the decomposing fat left on skins. To counter this, Nicolas proposed a two step procedure that called for soaking the skin in a tanning solution then treating it with a soapy pomade. He claims to have had extraordinary success with his technique, but other naturalists failed to duplicate his results, and for this reason his method did not win many adherents.
The present work is dedicated to the Minister of the Interior, Lucien Bonaparte, a younger brother of Napoleon. One wonders whether this dedicated helped to secure his position at Caen in the same year.
Bibliography: See Paul Lawrence Farber, ‘The Development of Taxidermy and the History of Ornithology’, Isis Vol. 68, No. 4 (Dec., 1977), pp. 550-566.