Caracteres des Epimaques. from Histoire Naturelle Des Oiseaux De Paradis, the year 1835 by Réné Primevere Lesson, Paul Louis Oudart and Jean Gabriel Prêtre.

A rare complete set of three antique prints showing in great detail the famous Magnificent Riflebird of Paradise, a male, young male and female. Published in Paris France in the year 1835 (first edition) in "Histoire Naturelle Des Oiseaux De Paradis" (Natural History Of Birds Of Paradise), the first and most comprehensive work on birds of paradise entitled until John Gould's great monograph started appearing 20 years later. By René Primevère LESSON (1794-1849), a surgeon, pharmacist, naturalist on the round-the-world scientific voyage of the corvette La Coquille (1822-1825), led by Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont D'URVILLE (1790-1842) and Louis-Isidore DUPERREY (1786-1865).

The magnificent riflebird (Ptiloris magnificus) is a species of passerine bird of the family Paradisaeidae. Magnificent riflebirds are widely distributed throughout lowland rainforests of western New Guinea and the northern Cape York Peninsula. This riflebird is a medium-sized bird, being up to 34 cm long. The male is velvet-black bird-of-paradise with elongated black filamental flank plumes, an iridescent blue-green crown, a wide, triangle-shaped breast shield, and on central tail feathers. It has a black curved bill, yellow mouth, blackish feet and a dark brown iris. The female is brownish with dark spots and buff bars below with a white brow. The immature male resembles the male but with less tail plumes.

The diet of the magnificent riflebird consists mainly of fruits and a variety of invertebrates such as spiders, millipedes, etc.[4] Males are polygamous and perform solitary courtship displays on a 'dancing perch'. During these displays, the male fully extends his wings and raises his tail; he jerks upward while swinging his head from side to side, showing off his metallic blue-green breast shield, and producing a distinctive "woosh" sound as he flaps his wings. Multiple females will observe these displays, and, if satisfied with the performance, reward the male with mating rights. Females subsequently build nests, incubate, brood, and feed young without male assistance.

LESSON studied these birds in their natural habitat during the expedition and was the first European to observe birds of paradise alive in the wild and was the first to describe a Bird of Paradise in flight when the voyage visited New Guinea in 1824. He brought back numerous specimens from the Australia, Moluccas and New Guinea. The voyage concentrated on the exploration of the Pacific Ocean, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, Polynesia and South America. His classic monograph on these birds includes a synopsis of species with descriptions and synonymies and a treatment of each, at least 4 of which were new to European science.

A hand-finished engraved plate, heightened with gum arabic by Paul Louis OUDART (1796-1860) and Jean Gabriel PRÊTRE (1768-1849). Each illustration is numbered and signed by the illustrators. Like Redouté, OUDART was a pupil of the celebrated Dutch master Gerard van Spaendonck, and 'one of the outstanding French illustrators and bird painters' (Jackson op. cit p.382). He began exhibiting ornithological paintings at the Salon in 1819. PRÊTRE, worked at Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris and provided the plates for many of the important French natural history works published in the first half of the 19th century: as Anker notes, 'these works were illustrated in accordance with the highest requirements of the time by artists such as J.G. Prêtre'.

Colour-printed engraving with hand-colouring, this print effortlessly captures the exotic beauty of one of the most spectacular of all Birds of Paradise. These almost 200 year old prints are much sought after by collectors of these amazing birds and very suitable for framing. 

René Primevère Lesson
Magnificent Riflebird of Paradise, L' Epimaque promefil, Year 1835, Réné Primevere Lesson (set of 4)
Publication Place / Date
Image Dimensions
Paris / 1835 ( First Edition )
24 by 16 cm
Hand Colouring
VG / Study images carefully.
Product Price
Product Number
USD 1,200
SKU #P.1940