Caratteri di alcuni nuovi generi e nuove specie di animali…

~ Caratteri di alcuni nuovi generi e nuove specie di animali e piante della Sicilia con varie osservazioni sopra i medesimi. Palermo: Stampe di Sanfilippo, 1810.

8vo (200 × 123 mm), pp. [6] (including half-title and dedication), 105, [1] plus 20 large etched plates printed in sepia, folding (c. 196 × 180 mm on sheets of 240 × 195 mm). Contemporary blue wrappers.Slightly rubbed and soiled, old paper shelf label to upper cover). A very nice unsophisticated copy.

First edition, very rare, of this wide-ranging account of plant and animal species in Sicily (many systematically recorded here for the first time) including a fine series of plates of fish from Sicilian waters.
Rafinesque-Schmaltz is one of the most intriguing figures among natural historians of his era is best known for his anticipation of Darwin’s theories of natural selection. Born at Constantinople to French and German parents he never studied formally but roamed widely in Europe and the United States, recording voraciously as he went, before settling in Ohio in 1815. He spent several years in America before settling for a time in Sicily, where he learnt Italian and occupied himself in commerce. He published three books in Italian, including the present Caratteri di alcuni nuovi generi, an account of the island’s natural history. Later returning to America he became acquainted with the major researchers there, including Asa Gray and Audubon, who, like many others, were broadly critical of his erratic autodidactic methods. Nonetheless, he was acknowledged by Darwin (in the third edition of Origin of the Species, 1861) as having contributed to the theory of evolution.
The book was apparently issued in two parts, with pp. 1-69 concerning animals coming first. A few copies are recorded as having an additional part title dated 1809, but it is unlikely it actually appeared in 1809 (see Stafleu (1968). ‘Rafinesque’s Caratteri and Florula Ludoviciana’. Taxon, 17(3), pp. 296-299). Fitzpatrick, Rafinesque 1; Pritzel, Thesaurus literaturae botanicae, 7399.

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