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Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles, ou l'on Retablit les Caracteres de plusieurs Animaux dont les Revolutions du Globe ont detruit les Especes

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The full title reads as follows:

"Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles, ou l’on Retablit les Caracteres de plusieurs Animaux don’t les Revolutions du Globe ont detruit les Especes; / par / Georges Cuvier / Quatrieme Edition, / Revue et Completee / Au moyen de Notes Additionnelles et d’un Supplement laisses par l’Auteur. / Tome Premier, / Premiere Partie. / Paris. / Edmond D’Ocagne, Editeur, / 12, rue des Petits-Augustins. / J.-B. Bailliere, 13 bis, rue de l’Ecole-de-Medecine. / F.-G. Lebrault, 81, rue de la Harpe. / Crochard, 13, place de l’Ecole-de Medecine. / Roret, 10 bis, rue Hautefeuille. / 1834."

Issue Points

Fourth edition, revised and completed. The definitive edition.

In the original 20 parts as issued.

Text Notes

In the 1790s Cuvier began to publish a series of papers on fossils that laid the foundation of modern paleontology. These were reissued in bookform by Cuvier as ‘Recherches sur les ossemens fossils,’ (offered here) prefaced by the important ‘Discours préliminaire,’ which defined Cuvier’s influential geological theory of ‘revolutions’ in the earth's history. The work was also prefaced by an enlarged version of the joint stratigraphical memoir of Cuvier and Alexandre Brongniart’s. Cuvier believed, in opposition to Lamarck, that species were fixed and basically inalterable - the idea of species transmutation was inadmissible, as every organism consisted of parts whose action and form were logically connected to the integration of the whole, and any modification would seriously endanger the necessary balance. His concept of geological "revolutions", which he believed to be a regular and natural part of the earth's history, was used to explain the mass extinction of species from previous epochs. The finely written geological essay with which ‘Ossemens fossils’ began brought together the ideas that Cuvier had already suggested and welded them into a coherent theory. Within an immensely lengthy time-scale of earth-history, generally tranquil conditions similar to those observable at the present day had been interrupted occasionally by sudden major changes in physical geography. Much of the essay was devoted to showing that these revolutions must have been sudden and that no observable process was adequate to account for them. This was not a reversal of the method of actualism, but simply an acknowledgment that ‘none of the agents that nature employs today would have sufficed to produce its ancient effects.’ Certainly it did not imply that the cause of revolutions was unknowable, still less supernatural. (Radwick at 132)


1. Arthur Jacob (his bequest stamp to the RCSI on the front wrapper of each volume dated 1871)

2. The Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.

BiologyEvolutionSpeciesFossilsBonesSciencePaleontologyOriginal Parts

Gallery of 387 pages.

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