Monday, May 09, 2011


From scarlet to dusty gold,
to yellow flames,
to the rare
ashen emerald,
to the orange and black velvet
of our girdle gilded by sunflowers,
to the sketch
amber thorns,
your Epiphany,
little supreme being,
you are a miracle,
shimmering ..

Pablo Neruda - Ode to a Hummingbird [w]

book illustration of hummingbird
Le Stokes

19th century hummingbird illustration
Le Petit Rubis de la Caroline, sur une Mimeuse

adult hummingbird hand-coloured lithograph
Oiseau-Mouche Ensipenne, Plumage Complete d'Adulte

coloured lithograph 1833 hummingbird by René Primevère Lesson
Oiseau-Mouche Mediastin, Plumage Parfait d'Adulte

RP Lesson - ornithological illustration 1830s
Oiseau-Mouche Avocette, Jeune Age

colourful illustration of Trochilidae species, 1800s
Le Tricolore, Jeune Adulte

Trochilidae illustration by René Primevère Lesson
Oiseau-Mouche de Loddiges

René Primevère Lesson illustration of hummingbird
Le Buffon

bird sketch 19th century
L'Anais, Male en Plumage Parfait

illustration of hummingbird, RP Lesson 1832
La Caeligene

hummingbird illustration - perched on tree branch
Colibri faux Brins-Blancs

resting hummingbird in tree : 1832 sketch
Le Mazeppa

French physician and naturalist René Primevère Lesson (1794-1849) enlisted and served in the navy during the Napoleonic wars. In the 1820s he sailed around the world aboard La Coquille with a scientific expedition headed by Louis-Isadore Duperrey.

Chief among Lesson's duties during the voyage was collecting zoological specimens that served as the basis for a number of well regarded monographs. He is best remembered for the books he released on some of the most beautiful birds in the world: hummingbirds from the Americas and birds of paradise from New Guinea.

Notes on the Trochilidae family from the Internet Bird Collection:
  • Small to tiny fast-flying birds, with extensively iridescent plumage, many with strikingly coloured gorget or crest; thin bill extremely variable, from short to extremely long, from straight to sharply curved; feet tiny.
  • New World, mainly Neotropical.
  • Wide variety of habitats, wherever suitable food plants occur, from sea-level up to c. 5000 m, with greatest diversity in submontane zone.
  • 102 genera, 329 species, 684 taxa.
  • 29 species threatened; 1 definitely extinct since 1600.
The cropped and spot-cleaned hand-coloured engravings seen above were sourced from Volume Two of 'Les Trochilidées ou les Colibris et les Oiseaux-Mouches Suivis d'un Index Général dans Lequel sont Décrites et Classées Méthodiquement Toutes les Races et Espèces du Genre Trochilus ; Ouvrage Orné de Planches Dessinées et Gravées par les Meilleurs Artistes' [1832], online at Göttinger Digitalisierungszentrum.

  • Birdphotos has high resolution photographs of a large number of hummingbird species.
  • Via, or at least inspired by, Salzburg University Library's Book of the Month.
  • Short Wikipedia biography of René Primevère Lesson.
  • Previously: Gould's Hummingbirds (which post-dates Lesson by 60 years)


Susan said...

Beautiful engravings... hummingbirds are such divine creatures.

Susan Scheid (Raining Acorns) said...

Beautiful engravings of an enchanting little bird.

Tea said...

Aaaaaaah, so lovely. Unbelievable. Thank you.

Evan Jones said...

Beautiful, but isn't Le Petit Rubis de la Caroline standing on an impossible branch?

artpaw said...

Great post, lovely find.

shirine nour said...

so nice...!!!!

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