Thursday, December 13, 2012

Le Buffon Choisi

A humorous children's zoology book, loosely modelled
after the 18th century scientific works of Buffon,
one of the leading figures of the French Enlightenment

Le Buffon Choisi (cover)
Le Buffon Choisi by Benjamin Rabier
~The Buffon Selection
book cover, 1924

Benjamin Rabier vignette 1924

Le Cygne - Le Buffon Choisi
Le Cygne
(The Swan)

Benjamin Rabier vignette

Pachyderms (L'Elephant) - Le Buffon Choisi
Pachyderms (L'Eléphant)

Benjamin Rabier cartoon animal vignette

Le Coq - cartoon lithograph
Le Coq

Benjamin Rabier book illustration vignette

french anthropomorphic cartoon lithograph
Le Cheval
(the horse)

extra j

cartoon lithograph of pelican in children's book 1920s
Le Pélican

benjamin rabier chapter vignette

coloured illustration of tiger
Le Tigre

lithographed cartoon miniature

book illustration in colour by Benjamin Rabier
L'Homme - sa supériorité sur les Animaux

*Man's superiority over the animals* -- apart from being the illustration title, this line is also the heading in the book's introduction. It's meant to be a reflection of the serious work that went into the enormous 40+ volume series (Buffon's 'Natural History'), but it is also a tongue-in-cheek jab at the impossibility of man ever really dominating the animal world, and particularly so in the case of domestic animals. They have minds of their own!

Rabier book illustration

colour lithograph of rhino by B Rabier 1920s
Le Rhinocéros

Benjamin Rabier vignette book illustration

Benjamin Rabier (1864-1939) was a self-taught artist who grew up in Paris. His most famous comic design may well be the laughing cow figure - 'La Vache qui Rit' -the product mark for a brand of processed cheese.

Rabier was a prolific illustrator and his work appeared in hundreds of books, as well as in all the contemporary and humorous magazines and newspapers in France. He also produced art works for advertising, editorial cartoons, groundbreaking comic forms and, if that wasn't enough talent on show, he managed to write at least one stage-play.

Around 1910, Rabier had begun to create animal illustrations for a whole series of 30+ children's illustrated periodicals, each based on single animal as inspired by (Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de) Buffon's great scientific encyclopædia. It seems the original intention was to introduce Buffon's work to a young audience, but over the next decade Rabier developed a softer and more humorous rendering of the original scientific writing and illustrations.

Rabier gave his animals slight human facial qualities (anthropomorphism)^ and the accompanying text moved from the practical and informative to a more traditional children's book story-telling style. The Buffon books he published in the 1920s gravitated somewhere between caricature and realism and were definitely intended more as entertainment rather than as educational works. Rabier nevertheless continued to cite Buffon as the author of the words.


Kelly Robinson said...

I wonder what the story is behind the rabbit pieta?

peacay said...

Hanging my head in shame as I had to look that ref up! My first thought it pretentiousness but I guess you'd have to find that spot in the book and practice your reading in French ;- )

dross1260 said...

Christ hare

In the small parish church of Rennes-les-Bains (Aude), we can meditate on a table, pieta, means that local folklore as the Christ hare . The paint has subjectively in shadows of muscles and tendons, the image of a hare crouched on the left thigh of the dead Christ. However, some researchers see a hare's head on the right knee of Christ and ignore the hare lying on the left thigh. Are there two hares? The pieta scene takes place in a cave. Hare, we have seen, is a symbol of Christ. They are both carpets underground burial.
Lift (or raise) a hare , is a term that originates from hunting but means detecting an anomaly before the other ordiscover something important . In the first stage, it alludes to the hunter who tracks down the animal's burrow. Hare, hitherto hidden in his lair, motionless, his long ears lying on his back (he dead) suddenly appears and starts running. Would this not the message we breath the author of the pieta? "Sunrise" the hare? "Lift" dead?
In ancient Greek, the word resurrection does not exist. He was replaced in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) and New Testament (written entirely in English) as "rise from the dead." Sunrise or raise a hare would be a metaphor for resurrection.
Abbé Henri Boudet who was parish priest of Rennes-les-Bains for many years published in 1886 a curious book entitled The True Celtic Language and the Cromlech of Rennes-les-Bains . This book is the key to the enigma of Rennes-les-Bains and Rennes-le-Château. On the last page of his foreword, Boudet wrote:
" That is the Cromleck Rennes-les-Bains is intimately linked to the resurrection, or, if you will, waking up unexpectedly the Celtic language. "[13]
We find the same idea in a book also attributed (falsely?) To Boudet and revealing title: " Lazarus, Veni Foras! "words Jesus would have spoken in the resurrection of Lazarus.


pita ou franck said...

Thanks a lot , I love Rabier !
( a little mistake on : L'Homme - sa supériorité sur les AnimAUX without "e" )
:-) patricia

peacay said...

Thanks P!

Dea said...

I love your way of allowing a look into a world that's in the past! A very beautiful book.

alvaro barcala said...


lotusgreen said...

You are the master! Have you moved, are just having the site hosted elsewhere? Whatever, I'm so glad you are still able to amaze.

peacay said...

Same bat time, same bat channel. For 7+ years! Thanks for stopping by!!

Karla said...

It's hard to believe it's been 7+ years already! but decidedly same bat time, same bat channel as ever (did Rabier include any bats?).

The rabbit/hare pietà was indeed unexpected and fortunately not quite what my own rabbits get up to (nor have we had any rising from the dead for that matter). In any case, there are quite a few subtly unexpected bits in this lot. The elephant rightly protects its ivory, but what on earth is driving the horse and alarming the chickens? Is it some relative of Bigfoot or is it a form of death-spirit?

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