Petri von Hartenfels, Georg Christoph | Elephantographia Curiosa

  • First edition of the first monograph on the elephant. Presentation copy inscribed by the author on the front pastedown to the Monastery of St Peter in Erfurt: “Instructissimae Bibliotheca Regalis Monasterii Petrensis hunc de Elephanto Tractatum in sui memoriam offert Author. Erfordiae, die 3 Novembris, Anno 1714”. Also with the ownership inscription of the monastery library on the title and a later ownership inscription on the recto of the frontispiece, “H. Graf du Moulin, München 20 Nov. 1839”. 

    This copiously illustrated work – uncommon with all 28 plates – explores every aspect of elephant life as understood by 17th-century Europeans. The first part of the work is devoted to fossil remains and anatomy of elephants, their lives and habits, and the differences between Indian and African elephants. The author is particularly concerned with elephant teeth and tusks, their properties, and their use in art. The second part deals with elephants’ moral virtues and attributes, such as sympathy, gratitude, intelligence, and courage. The third part is devoted to the use of elephants in war, hunting, construction, and entertainment.

    The frontispiece was designed by T.J. Hildebrandt and engraved by Jakob Petri, an Erfurt engraver; the plates are signed by the latter only. They depict a variety of scenes involving elephants, some being depictions of historical events, others showing elephants in their natural habitats engaged in various activities. The folding plate depicts elephant anatomy, including the skeleton, skull, internal organs, and dissected trunk.

    Author Petri von Hartenfels (1633-1718) was a Leipzig Burgomaster and professor of medicine who was named count palatine by the Emperor Leopold. The monastery to which this copy was presented was constructed in the 12th century on St. Peter’s Hill in Erfurt, and was one of the largest and most significant church structures in the region at the time. The monastery building was destroyed, and the adjoining church severely damaged, when Prussian forces tried to retake the town from the French in 1813.

  • ...seu Elephanti Descriptio, juxta Methodum et Leges Imperialis Academiæ Leopoldino-Carolinæ Naturae Curiosorum adornata, multisque selectis observationibus physicis, medicis et jucundis historiis referta, cum figuris æneis. Erfurt: for the author by Johann Heinrich Grosch, 1715.

    Quarto (210 x 157 mm). Contemporary sheep rebacked with the original spine laid down. Quadruple rules to boards and triple rules to spine panels. Engraved frontispiece and 27 copperplate engravings of which 1 is folding, half-page engraving within the text, elaborate head and tail-pieces and historiated initials. Presentation and ownership inscriptions to the front pastedown, title and recto of the frontispiece. Rebacked as noted, spine a little rolled, a little wear at the corners, occasional small spots to contents but overall clean. A very good copy.