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SAUSSURE, Horace Bénédict de.

(1740 – 1799)

(Born: Conches near Geneva, Switzerland, 17 February 1740; Died: Geneva, Switzerland, 22 January 1799) Swiss geologist, botanist & alpinist.

From 1762 to 1786, Saussure was professor of physics and philosophy at the University of Geneva. He invented and perfected many atmospheric instruments to aid his observations, and his experiments in geology mark the beginning of petrology.

Biographical references: ABF: I 940, 410-419; 940, 425-443; II 578, 420-422. Barr, Index to Biographical Fragments, 1973: 230. Cleevely, World Palæontological Collections, 1983: 255. DBA: I 1083, 51-108; II 1124, 109-123. Drugulin, Sechstausend Portraits, 1863: no. 4732-5. DSB: 12, 119-23 [by A.V. Carozzi]. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition. Freshfield, D.W. and H.F. Montagnier, The life of Horace Bénédict de Saussure. London, 1920. Fueter, Grosse Schweizer Forscher, 1941: 158-9, portrait. ISIS, 1913-65: 2, 442-3. Lambrecht & Quenstedt, Catalogus, 1938: 376. Poggendorff: 2, cols. 755-6. Sarjeant, Geologists, 1980: 3, 2043-4, Suppl. 1 (1985), 2, 752 & Suppl. 2 (1996), 2, 1050-1. WBI.

Voyages dans les Alpes, 1779

1. French, 1779-96 [First edition].
Voyages | Dans Les Alpes, | Précédés | D'un Essai | Sur L'Histoire Naturelle | Des Environs | De Geneve, | Par Horace-Bénedict De Saussure, Professeur de Philosophie dans | l'Académie de Geneve. | Tome Premier. | [rectangular vignette] | Nec species sua cuique manet, rerumque novatrix, | Ex aliis alias reparat Natura figuras. | Ovid. | [rule] A Neuchatel, | Chez Samuel Fauche, Imprimeur et Libraire du Roi. | [ornate rule] | M. DCC. LXXIX.

4 vols. [Vol 1: 1779] 4°: [iv], xxxv, 540, [1] p. [Vol 2: 1786] 4°: [iv], xvii, 641, [3] p. [Vol 3: 1799] 4°: [iv], xx, 531 p. [Vol 4: 1796] 4°: [iv], 594, [2], with 2 engraved folding maps, 22 (mostly folded) engraved plates, 4 very fine title-vignettes and 4 others in the text, 2 folding letterpress tables.

Very scarce. First edition of this great classic on the geology of the Alps as well as a milestone of Alpine literature. It is the first work to give a detailed account of this great mountain range of Central Europe. "During these years he crossed the whole chain of the Alps no less than fourteen times and made in addition sixteen other traverses from the plains flanking the range to its central axis, and this at a time when there were but few roads in that part of Europe, which was then shunned by all travellers and where the passage of the mountains was not only difficult but often dangerous... He climbed all the accessible summits, collected specimens of rocks ... He was a contemporary of Werner and with Werner believed that this granite had crystallized out of the water of the primitive ocean ... While De Saussure's book deals chiefly with the geology of the Alps, it contains many references to the inhabitants of the mountains,their hard conditions of life and their sterling traits of character. He also speaks in the most glowing terms of the pleasure of mountaineering and Alpine explorations..." (Adams). De Saussure proformed experiments on the fusion of granites and porphyries and is considered the first experimental petrologist. He popularized the term 'geology' which replaced 'geognosy'. His work provided James Hutton with fundamental documentation. And without doubt his researches contributed to the modern passion for mountain climbing.

Octavo edition: An octavo size edition was published almost similtaneously in 8 volumes.

Bibliographical references: Adams, Birth and Development, 1938: 387-89. Brunet: 5, 150. Dana's 7th (Bibliography): 80. LKG: XIV 482. NUC: 522, 91-2 [NS 0150999]. Ward & Carozzi, Geology Emerging, 1984: no. 1055.

2. French, 1796-1804.
Voyages dans les Alpes. Précédés d'un essai sur l'histoire naturelle des environs de Genève par Horace-Bénédict de Saussure ... Neuchâtel, L. Fauche-Borel, imprimeur, 1796-1804.

4 vols. [Vol 1] 4°: xxii, 452 (i.e., 454) p., 8 plates, one map. [Vol 2] 4°: [4], 568 (i.e., 548) p., 6 plates, one map. [Vol 3] 4°: [4], xx, 532, [2] p., 2 plates. [Vol 4] 4°: [6], 594, [2] p., 5 plates. Very scarce.

Related work, 1852: {\rsl Voyages dans les Alp}. Partie pitoresque des ouvrages de H.- B. de Saussure 2e éd. augment ... Paris, Joël Cherbulies, 1852.

Bibliographical references: NUC.

3. German, 1781-8 [German transl.].
Reisen durch die Alpen nebst einem Versuche über die Naturgeschichte der Gegenden von Genf. Aus dem Französischen übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen (von J.S. Wyttenbach). Leipzig, F.F Junius, 1781-88.

4 vols. [Vol 1: 1781] 8°: xxvi, [2], 298 p., engraved title vignette, one folding map, 2 folding plates. [Vol 2: 1781] 8°: x, [2], 327, [1] p., 5 folding plates. [Vol 3: 1787] 8°: viii, 310 p., 2 folding plates. [Vol 4: 1788] 8°: [4], 433 p., 6 folding plates.

Very scarce. First appearance in German of Saussure's chief work, a milestone of mountain research and alpine literature. It is a translation by Jacob Samuel Wyttenbach of Voyages dans les Alpes (1779-96). The first two volumes contain the description of the natural history of the Alpes, which contains some mineralogy.

Jakob Samuel Wyttenbach. (Born: 1748; Died: 1830) Swiss theologian. Wyttenbach was a pastor in Bern, Switzerland.

Bibliographical references: Graesse, Trésor de Livres Rares, 1859-69: 6, 277. LKG: XIV 483a. Lonchamp, F.C., L'oeuvre imprimé de Madame Germaine de Staël; description bibliographique raisonnée et annotée de tous les ouvrages publiés par ses soins ou ceux de ses héritiers (1786-1821). Genève, P. Cailler, 1949. xi, 125 p., port: no. 2615. NUC: 522, 91-2 [NS 0150993]. Pritzel, Thesaurus Literaturæ Botanicæ, 1871-3: no. ??. (Wyttenbach) DBA: I 1400, 215-282. Hamberger & Meusel, Gelehrte Teutschland, 1796-1834. WBI.

4. French, 1787.
Relation abrégée d'un voyage à la cime du Mont-Blanc en ao{\^u}t 1787. Geneve, 1787.

8°: Very scarce.

German transl., 1928: Kurzer Bericht von einer Reise auf den Gipfel des Montblanc, im Aug. 1787 von H.B. de Saussure. Aus dem Französischen übersetzt [von Traugott von Gersdorf]. München, 1928. [Published as Jahresgabe der Gesellschaft Alpiner Bücherfreunde, 1.]

Bibliographical references: LKG: XIV 674. NUC.

5. German, 1788.
Kurzer Bericht von einer Reise auf den Gipfel des Montblanc von H.B. de Saussure, nebst Bourrit Reise durch das Eisthel vom Montanvert in's Piemontasischen. Strasbu, Akad. Buchh., 1788.

8°: 40 p. Very scarce.

Bibliographical references: LKG: XIV 674a*.

6. German, 1796.
Agenda du voyageur géologue, tiré du 4e. volume des voyages dans les Alpes ... Par H.B. de Saussure ... A Genève, De l'impr. de la Bibliothèque britannique, Chez J.J. Paschoud, 1796.

8°: iv, 56 p.

Rare. First separate appearance, containing further notes on the topic and the last thoughts the author published. The work originally appeared in the final volume of Saussure's \t{Voyages} published in the same year; however, due to Saussure's health, was never able to present his final theory regarding the origins of the earth. "Since his illness did not permit him to do so, he substituted, in the last volume of the \t{Voyages}, an \t{Agenda or General Compendium of the Results of the Observations and Investigations Which Are to Serve as a Basis for the Theory of the Earth}, which he characterized as a list of the problems to be solved by his followers. He thereby placed in the hands of his successors the fruits of his thirty-six years of travel and work, and left to them the task of reaching a general theory." -­DSB. The preface of the publisher indicates that Saussure has added further notes to this edition, not present in the earlier appearance.

Bibliographical references: DSB: 12, p. 122. LKG: XIII 209*.

7. Danish, 1798.
Haandbog for reisende Geologer, med Tillaeg af forskiellige Franske Mineraloger. Oversat af det Franske med Anmaerknikger ved Gr. Wad. Køpenhagen, 1798.


Extremely rare. Translation by Gregers Wad [1755-1832]. Apparently an abstracted translation from Saussure's work dealing with the information needed by the geologist and mineralogist.

Bibliographical references: LKG: XIII 210a.