"The species can undergo such a large number of modifications in its forms and qualities, that without losing its vital capacity, it may be, by its latest conformation and properties, farther removed from its original state than from a different species: it is in that case metamorphosed into a new species."
Bernard-Germain-Etienne Comte de Lacépède (1756-1825) was a musical composer, member of the post-revolution French Republic's National Assembly and a philosophy graduate.
He became friends with the noted natural scientist Buffon and published a number of scientific papers on electricity, physics, amphibians, whales and quadrupeds as well as being appointed to the chairs of icthyology and herpetology at the French Academy of Science.
Despite his vague prefiguring of Darwinian theory (quote above) the outlandish engravings here (from sketches by De Sève) and the often erroneous species classification in many of Lacépède's publications have consigned his work to the novelty area of scientific history.
- The title page and all 17 plates from Illustrations de Histoire Naturelle des Cétacés, published in 1804, are hosted by the Gallica website of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France - thumbnail page.
- 15 colour plates from another natural history publication by Lacépède.