This scarce original antique print depicts the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), also known as the Asiatic elephant, the only living species of the genus Elephas and is distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, from India in the west, Nepal in the north, Sumatra in the south, and to Borneo in the east.
Lithograph with original delicate hand coloring entitled: Ordre Pachydermes Elephant des Indes. (Elephas indicus)
Published in the year 1849 by the famous Charles d'Orbigny, in 'Dictionnaire Universel D’histoire Naturelle ATLAS' (Universal Natural History Dictionary ATLAS), one of the most celebrated works on Natural History from the 19th century.
Charles d'Orbigny (1802 – 1857) was a French naturalist who made major contributions in many areas, including zoology (including malacology), paleontology, geology, archaeology and anthropology. D'Orbigny was born in Couëron (Loire-Atlantique), the son of a ship's physician and amateur naturalist. The family moved to La Rochelle in 1820, where his interest in natural history was developed while studying the marine fauna and especially the microscopic creatures that he named "foraminiferans".
In Paris he became a disciple of the geologist Pierre Louis Antoine Cordier (1777–1861) and Georges Cuvier. All his life, he would follow the theory of Cuvier and stay opposed to Lamarckism. (The notion that an organism can pass on to its offspring physical characteristics that the parent organism acquired through use or disuse during its lifetime. It is also called the inheritance of acquired characteristics or more recently soft inheritance. The idea is named after the French zoologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck)
D'Orbigny traveled on a mission for the Paris Museum, in South America between 1826 and 1833. He visited Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, and returned to France with an enormous collection of more than 10,000 natural history specimens.
His contemporary, Charles Darwin, arrived in South America in 1832, and on hearing that he had been preceded, grumbled that D'Orbigny had probably collected "the cream of all the good things'. Darwin later called D'Orbigny's Voyage a "most important work". They went on to correspond, with D'Orbigny describing some of Darwin's specimens.
D'Orbigny died in 1857 in the small town of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, near Paris.