Geneva: Chez Barde, Manget & Compagnie, 1786. First edition. Volumes I-II (of 4) only. Quarto (10 1/4 x 7 3/4 inches; 260 x 197 mm.). Contemporary full russia, covers with quadruple gilt borders, spines with five raised bands, decoratively tooled in compartments, two red and purple morocco labels lettered in gilt, all edges marbled in blue and white. Corners of volume one a little rubbed, joints of volume two very slightly cracked but absolutely sound. Collating , xxxvi, 540, [1, list of plates, verso blank]; , xvi, 641, [1, errata], [1, list of plates, verso blank]. Three vignettes included in pagination. Two folding maps, one folding table and fourteen engraved plates (all but one folding) on thirteen sheets. Small marginal paper flaw on lower corner of leaf O3 (pages 109/110) in volume one and small marginal paper flaw on upper corner of leaf Aa4 (pages 191/192) in volume two. A Fine copy.
First Edition of the first two volumes of de Saussure's Voyages dans les Alpes, containing his account of the natural history of Geneva and its environs along with the record of his explorations in the area of Mont Blanc. The third and fourth volumes were not published until 1796, a decade after the appearance of Vol. II. Written by the notable Swiss aristocrat, physicist and Alpine traveler. He was considered to be the founder of Alpinism, and possibly the first person to build a successful solar oven. Between 1774 and 1787 he performed extensive geological investigations of the Alpine region, which he saw as holding the key to a true theory of the earth. His early interest in botanical studies led him to undertake journeys among the Alps, and from 1773 onwards he directed his attention to the geology and physics of that region. This work did much to clear up the topography of the snowy portions of the Alps, and to attract the attention of tourists to spots like Chamonix and Zermatt. In 1760 he first visited Chamonix, and offered a reward to the first man to reach the summit of Mont Blanc, at the time unscaled. Since 1774 he tried to find a way to reach the summit on the Italian side, accompanied by the Courmayeur alpine guide Jean-Laurent Jordaney on the Miage glacier and on Mont Crammont. He made an unsuccessful attempt himself in 1785, by the Aiguille du Goûter route. Two Chamonix men, Michel Paccard and Jacques Balmat attained the summit in 1786, by way of the Grands Mulets, and in 1787 Saussure himself made the third ascent of the mountain.
His work with rocks, erosion, and fossils would also lead him to the idea that the earth was much older than generally thought and formed part of the basis of Darwin's Theory of Evolution. He carried barometers and boiling-point thermometers to the summits of the highest mountains, and estimated the relative humidity of the atmosphere at different heights, its temperature, the strength of solar radiation, the composition of air and its transparency. Then, following the precipitated moisture, he investigated the temperature of the earth at all depths to which he could drive his thermometer staves, the course, conditions and temperature of streams, rivers, glaciers and lakes, even of the sea (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).
Barth 18029. (Item #3772)