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Histoire Naturelle

Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi
Histoire naturelle (Buffon).jpg
Title page of volume 4, 1753
Author Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon
Illustrator Jacques de Sève and others
Country France
Subject Natural history, minerals, quadrupeds, birds
Genre Encyclopaedia
Publisher Imprimerie royale
Publication date
1749–1804
Pages 36 + 8 volumes

The Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi (1749–1804) is an encyclopaedic collection of 36 large (quarto) volumes written over much of his working life by the Comte de Buffon, and continued in eight more volumes after his death by his colleagues, led by Bernard Germain de Lacépède. The books cover what was known of the "natural sciences" at the time, including what would now be called material science, physics, chemistry and technology as well as the natural history of animals.

The Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi is the work that the Comte de Buffon (1707–1788) is remembered for. He worked on it for some 50 years, initially at Montbard in his office in the Tour Saint-Louis, then in his library at Petit Fontenet. 36 volumes came out between 1749 and 1789, followed by 8 more after his death, thanks to Bernard Germain de Lacépède. It includes all the knowledge available in his time on the "natural sciences", a broad term that includes disciplines which today would be called material science, physics, chemistry and technology. Buffon notes the morphological similarities between men and apes, although he considered apes completely devoid of the ability to think, differentiating them sharply from human beings. Buffon's attention to internal anatomy made him an early comparative anatomist. "L’intérieur, dans les êtres vivants, est le fond du dessin de la nature", he wrote in his Quadrupèdes, "the interior, in living things, is the foundation of nature's design."

The Histoire Naturelle, which was meant to address the whole of natural history, actually covers only minerals, birds, and the quadrupeds among animals. It is accompanied by some discourses and a theory of the earth by way of introduction, and by supplements including an elegantly written account of the epochs of nature.



  • 3 volumes in 1749 : De la manière d’étudier l’histoire naturelle followed by Théorie de la Terre, Histoire Générale des animaux and Histoire Naturelle de l’homme
  • 12 volumes on quadrupeds (1753 to 1767)
  • 9 volumes on birds (1770 to 1783])
  • 5 volumes on minerals (1783 to 1788), the last including Traité de l’aimant, the last work published by Buffon in his lifetime
  • 7 volumes of supplements (1774 to 1789), including Époques de la nature (from 1778).
  • Volume I : Premier Discours - De la manière d’étudier et de traiter l’histoire naturelle, Second Discours - Histoire et théorie de la Terre, Preuves de la théorie de la Terre, 1749
  • Volume II : Histoire générale des Animaux, Histoire Naturelle de l'Homme, 1749
  • Volume III : Description du cabinet du Roi, Histoire Naturelle de l'Homme, 1749
  • Volume IV (Quadrupèdes I) : Discours sur la nature des Animaux, Les Animaux domestiques, 1753
  • Volume V (Quadrupèdes II) : 1755
  • Volume VI (Quadrupèdes III) : Les Animaux sauvages, 1756
  • Volume VII (Quadrupèdes IV) : Les Animaux carnassiers, 1758
  • Volume VIII (Quadrupèdes V) : 1760
  • Volume IX (Quadrupèdes VI) : 1761
  • Volume X (Quadrupèdes VII) : 1763
  • Volume XI (Quadrupèdes VIII) : 1764
  • Volume XII (Quadrupèdes IX) : 1764
  • Volume XIII (Quadrupèdes X) : 1765
  • Volume XIV (Quadrupèdes XI) : Nomenclature des Singes, De la dégénération des Animaux, 1766
  • Volume XV (Quadrupèdes XII) : 1767
  • Volume XXX (Suppléments I) : Servant de suite à la Théorie de la Terre, et d’introduction à l’Histoire des Minéraux, 1774
  • Volume XXXI (Suppléments II) : Servant de suite à la Théorie de la Terre, et de préliminaire à l’Histoire des Végétaux - Parties Expérimentale & Hypothétique, 1775
  • Volume XXXII (Suppléments III) : Servant de suite à l'Histoire des Animaux quadrupèdes, 1776
  • Volume XXXIII (Suppléments IV) : Servant de suite à l'Histoire Naturelle de l'Homme, 1777
  • Volume XXXIV (Suppléments V) : Des Époques de la nature, 1779
  • Volume XXXV (Suppléments VI) : Servant de suite à l'Histoire des Animaux quadrupèdes, 1782
  • Volume XXXVI (Suppléments VII) : Servant de suite à l'Histoire des Animaux quadrupèdes, 1789
  • Volume XXXVII (Reptiles I) : Histoire générale et particulière des Quadrupèdes ovipares , 1788
  • Volume XXXVIII (Reptiles II) : Histoire des Serpents, 1789
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