Earliest classic cat book

Dr Desmond Morris states that Les Chats by François-Augustin de Paradis de Moncrif (1687, Paris – 19 November 1770, Paris) is the earliest classic cat books and one of the first books ever written solely about cats. It was published in 1727. He also states that an English version appeared in 1961. It was translated from the French by Reginald Bretnor.

Les Chat published in 1727
Les Chat published in 1727. Image: Abe Books.
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It was limited to 400 copies when published as a luxury edition by Golden Cockerel Press in London. A facsimile of this English edition was published in 1965 by A.S. Barnes in New York and Thomas Yoseloff in London.

The book is illustrated with 9 etched plates by Caylus. Two of them are folding. David Miles Books online, a book seller, states, “Les Chats is one of the earliest books written exclusively about cats”.

They say it was ridiculed when first published but it was popular. They also state that it “is often erroneously considered the ‘first cat book’ but they don’t specify the earliest cat book. They claim that other early books “are lost in obscurity”.

Perhaps then Les Chats is the only one of perhaps several very early books exclusively on the cat which survived. But this appears not to be the case – see below.

The book focuses on the relationship between domestic cats and ancient Egyptians apparently. Moncrif was an 18th-century French author best known for his parody works of satire.

Another early book and perhaps a better known very early cat book is the Cat-Book Poems (1350-1765). The book contains illustrations and descriptions of various types of cat and it is suggested that it served as a breed standard of sorts.

Cat-Book Poems showing Siamese type cats
Cat-Book Poems showing Siamese type cats

The manuscripts contain painted illustrations of different types of cat accompanied by descriptions entirely in poetic verse written in the Thai script. At that time there are no formal cat breeds but there were different sorts of cats including the Siamese as the book comes from Thailand formerly Siam, the place where the Siamese cat comes from.

This book is earlier than Les Chats.

There are some more articles on books below.

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