As a result of recent moves, the (almost) complete set of Buffon’s monumental Histoire naturelle belonging to my father’s family has recently arrived here in Zürich (it comes from my grand-father, who was director of the Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Nantes). I will keep these in my office for the moment, as it definitely lends it a very scholarly air…
(As far as I can see from the web page above, what is missing from our set is the Histoire naturelle des poissons, which was not written by Buffon anyway, but by the Comte de Lacépède, who also wrote the volumes about snakes, which we do have).
Many probabilists know Buffon for his annoying habit of dropping needles on the parquet, and finding the value of π after doing this sufficiently many times. This game was indeed included in his natural history, more precisely in the Essai d’arithmétique morale (or “Essay of moral arithmetic”) in Volume VII of the Suppléments — at least, it is there in my family’s edition, though it is missing from the web site containing Buffon’s works, where the Essai is in Supplement volume 4.
Here are pictures of the first pages of the description of the problem (click for readable larger picture):
Notice the delightful typography and orthography: the “s” that looks like an integral sign (and is barely distinguishable from an “f”), the way the past tense is written demanderoit instead of the current demanderait, etc.