Sowerby, James (illus)
London. Printed for the Author by J. Davis. 1790.
First Edition. The first volume of Sowerby's English Botany, iv+ 72 hand-colored engravings, descriptive text accompanies each plate, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt, 9.5 x 5.5 inches, leather covered boards with gilt dentelle (hardbound). FRONT COVER IS DETACHED. Occasional very light foxing to plates (scarcely visible), some offsetting onto text sheets. Neat 1882 inscription by a previous owner to the first blank leaf. Plates, on wove paper, bright and clean. Volume I, Number 1 of the publication started by the noted botanical artist James Sowerby (1757-1822), who had provided illustrations for William Curtis' publications, Flora Londonensis and The Botanical Magazine. The popularity of the latter work, first published in 1787, which featured plants imported from abroad in an affordable small format, encouraged Sowerby to start the current work. In the Preface to this first volume, Sowerby wrote of "its intention and plan": "A knowledge of the plants of our own country is in many respects preferable to that of exotics...Nor are the humble productions of our fields and woods deficient in real beauty, elegance or singularity of structure." The volume contains plates I through 72 which include some particularly attractive plates, all handcolored, of a variety of orchids, lady's-slipper, tulip, poppy, etc. While there are plates of several plainer plants, the preponderance in this early volume is definitely on the more showy and colorful plants, as would be expected to grow the subscription base; the success of this is attested to by the 24 year run of the magazine, with some 2,600 odd plates. Item #48028