From Natural History to the History of Nature
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297 pages

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This collection of readings, published for the first time in any language, presents a selection of critical responses to the original publication of the Natural History by George Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1697–1788). Comments by Albrecht von Haller, Lamoignon de Malesherbes, Héault de Séchelles, and anonymous reviews from leading periodicals of the period are included. Substantial selections from the first volumes of the Natural History and important documents from Buffon’s earlier works are also included. As much as possible, the authors have used entire selections, rather than brief excerpts.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 janvier 1981
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268159757
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,6250€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Figure 1 - Buffon near age 53, by Drouais
From Natural History to the History of Nature:
Readings from Buffon and His Critics
Edited, translated, and with introductions by John Lyon and Phillip R. Sloan
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
Copyright 1981 by University of Notre Dame
Published in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Main entry under title:
From natural history to the history of nature.
Bibliography: p.
1. Natural history-History-Addresses, essays, lectures. 2. Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de, 1707-1788-Addresses, essays, lectures. 3. Naturalists-France-Biography-Addresses, essays, lectures. I. Lyon, John. II. Sloan,
Phillip R.
QH15.F76 500 81-1320 AACR2
ISBN: 978-0-268-15974-0 (paper)
ISBN: 978-0-268-00955-7 (hardcover)
eISBN 9780268159757
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at .
2. Buffon s Preface to the Vegetable Staticks of Stephen Hales (1735) . Translated by Phillip R. Sloan.
3. Buffon s Preface to Isaac Newton s Fluxions (1740) (selected) . Translated by John Lyon.
4. Buffon s Moral Arithmetic (1730, 1777) (selected) . Translated by John Lyon.
5. Buffon on Newton s Law of Attraction, (1749), (selected) . Translated by Phillip R. Sloan.
6. The Initial Discourse to Buffon s Histoire naturelle (1749) . Translated by John Lyon.
7. The Second Discourse and Proofs of the Theory of the Earth from Buffon s Histoire naturelle (1749) (selected) .
a. Second Discourse: The History and Theory of the Earth. Translated by J.S. Barr.
b. Proofs of the Theory of the Earth, (1749) Article I . Translated by J.S. Barr.
8. Buffon on the Generation of Animals (1749) (selected) .
a. Of Reproduction in General (1749) (selected) . Translated by J. S. Barr.
b. Of Nuturition and Growth (1749) (selected) . Translated by J.S. Barr.
c. Experiments on the Method of Generation (1749) (selected) . Translated by J.S. Barr.
d. Reflections on the Preceding Experiments (1749) (selected) . Translated by J.S. Barr.
9. The Journal de Tr voux Reviews (1749-50) . Translated by John Lyon.
10. The Journal des savants Reviews (1749) (selected) . Translated by John Lyon.
11. The Nouvelles eccl siastiques Reviews (1750) . Translated by John Lyon.
12. The Biblioth que raison e Reviews (1750-51) . Translated by John Lyon.
13. The Sorbonne s Condemnation of the Histoire naturelle (1751) . Translated by John Lyon.
14. Buffon on Hypotheses: The Haller Preface to the German Translation of the Histoire naturelle (1750) . Translated by Phillip R. Sloan.
15. Haller on Buffon s Theory of Generation (1751) (selected) . Translated by Phillip R. Sloan.
16. Malesherbes Observations on Buffon s Natural History (1749, 1798), (selected) . Translated by John Lyon.
17. H rault de S chelles Visit to Buffon (1785) . Translated by John Lyon.
We have had to make several significant decisions concerning the content of the following collection of readings and translations. The finest available collection of readings from Buffon, the masterful Oeuvres philosophiques de Buffon , edited by Jean Piveteau (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1954), served as our beginning point. Other collections include the lesser Buffon : Morceaux choisis , edited by A.M. Petitjean (Paris: Gallimard, 1939), and the recent unorthodox collection of texts in Un autre Buffon , edited by Jacques-Louis Binet and Jacques Roger (Paris: Hermann, 1977). In addition to these, there are now available three recent collections from the body of the William Smellie English translation: the selections from the Natural History , General and Particular , edited by Frank N. Egerton, (History of Ecology Series; New York: Arno Press, 1977); and the selections from the Natural History of the Birds and the Natural History of Oviparous Quadrupeds , reprinted under the editorship of Keir B. Sterling (Biologists and their World Series; New York: Arno Press, 1978). In light of the available selections from the Natural History itself, it was our conclusion that the kind of collection most needed was one which could supply a greater context to Buffon s work, and give some explanation of the importance of his thought in the history of science and in the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment. By choosing initially a selection from writings which seemed to lay some of the conceptual foundations for the Natural History , our intent was to reveal some of the critical methodological and conceptual developments evident in Buffon s non-biological writings that might give a key to the enigmatic features of his mature thought. Through a selection of reviews by his contemporaries, we sought a more concrete insight into the novel aspects of his works as his immediate peers perceived them.
Commentators have frequently discussed in recent years the great impact of the Natural History on the thought of the Enlightenment. Otis Fellows, in an assessment of Buffon s general importance, saw in him nearly the ideal philosophe ( Buffon s Place in the Enlightenment, ; Studies in Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 25 [1963], 603-29), and has extended such claims in his recent collaborative biography with Stephen F. Milliken, Buffon (New York: Twayne, 1972). Daniel Mornet s somewhat surprising disclosure in 1910 that Buffon s Natural History was more frequently represented in eighteenth century French libraries than any other scientific or philosophical text with the exception of Pierre Bayle s Dictionnaire (D. Mornet, Les Enseignements des biblioth ques priv es [1750-80], ; Revue d historie litt raire de la France 17 [1910], 449-96), does not itself indicate anything about the nature of Buffon s actual impact, nor does it warrant an automatic inference from simple possession to critical reading of the text.
Yet questions still remain. Was Buffon simply a great popularizer ; of natural history? Were his scientific speculations held in high regard by his scientific peers, or dismissed as the hypotheses of a facile amateur? Did Buffon warrant the sort of respect which his contemporaries accorded to Leibniz, Diderot, Voltaire, Wolff, Hume and Montesquieu? Is his current location in the footnotes of intellectual history warranted? We believe that the seminal importance of Buffon in the development of modern natural science can be inferred from the texts which we have collected and translated here.
It has not been our intent to supply a comprehensive selection of texts from the Natural History itself. We have consequently included only those selections from that work which are most directly relevant to the subject matter of the reviews and commentaries which we have thought most centrally important to an understanding of the enduring significance of the man and his work. Consequently, our collection does not closely replicate collections of Buffon s writings available in any language, and is intended in part as a complement and supplement to those collections. Ideally a set of new translations from the original texts of the Natural History will be made in the future that will also include selections from the important Daubenton articles that have never appeared in the English language. Our collection does not intend to supply this deficiency.
With the exception of the Premier discours ;, which has only recently been translated in its entirety for the first time (by one of the editors of this collection), and appears here in a revised form, selections from the body of the Natural History itself have been made from the rare J.S. Barr edition of 1792. While this is, on some points, still not an ideal translation, it is the only English translation which remains closely faithful in detail to the French original. To increase the value of the Barr translations, we have not hesitated to make minor alterations and restorations after comparison with the original texts. The more commonly encountered William Smellie translation, first issued in 1781-85 and often reprinted, is in many respects a more literate translation, but suffers from repeated editorial alteration and omissions which make it a text which must be used with care on finer points of interpretation. The more literal William Kenrick translation of 1775 includes several texts not present in the other editions, particularly texts from the important Suppl ments and Histoire naturelle des mineraux , but suffers in many places from an incompetence that does not warrant its reprinting.
Because it has been our primary intent to provide a set of Buffon readings and commentary at a reasonable price for use by scholars and students of eighteenth century science and intellectual history generally, editorial commentary and critical appartus have been kept to a minimum. Readability and reliability have taken precedence over the demands of producing scholarly critical ; editions of these texts. For students interested in a deeper exploration of the Buffon literature, the logical beginning point is with the magnificent critical bibliography by E. Genet-Varcin and Jacques Roger appended to the Piveteau edition of the Oeuvres philosophiques de Buffon .
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