France: late nineteenth century. Complete set of 72 wooden blocks, measuring 1.5 inches square, covered in chromolithographed paper. With: eighteen single-sided chromolithographed guide prints, measuring 6.25 x 9.25 inches, each representing four labeled and numbered animal portraits. All housed in publisher’s original wood-framed cardboard box covered in floral paper, deep blue label bordered and lettered in gilt mounted to lid. Occasional trivial loss of paper to blocks; staple holes to left edge of prints, shallow chipping to left margins on several. Box rubbed and repaired, with a few stray stains.
Very large and heavy set of nineteenth-century zoological blocks, which can be combined to create images of 72 animals and birds. Subjects include exotic creatures (the rhinoceros, the polar bear, the zebra, the kangaroo), as well as common French domestic and woodland species. Animals and birds are depicted in their native environments, with a real attempt at accuracy in their poses and physical features. The blocks are accompanied by a series of color prints to be used as guides in assembling the 72 possible images. The numbers on the blocks and images do not run consecutively from 1 to 72, but range from 1 (“daim,” deer) to 100 (“belier-mérinos,” merino sheep), with some numbers skipped. The set is clearly complete, however, matching all the images on the guide prints, and fitting neatly in the publisher’s box; a “jeu de cubes” of 100 blocks would inevitably end in fragments, since the number of possible illustrations has to be a multiple of six. We have been unable to locate any extant examples of this natural history game, in part or whole. An extremely scarce and complete survival, still housed in its decorative box.