BARTON, William Paul Crillon (1786-1856)
A Flora of North America, illustrated by coloured figures drawn from nature
Philadelphia: Vol. I: M. Carey & Sons; Vol. II & III: H.C. Carey & I. Lea, 1821-1822-1823 [but 1820-1824]. 3 volumes, quarto. (10 13/16 x 8 3/8 inches). 106 uncoloured engraved plates (1 folding), from drawings by the author, by Cornelius Tiebout (29), G.B. Ellis (32), F. Kearney (23), J. Boyd (7), J. Drayton (6), C. Goodman (6), Jacob J. Plocher (2), and J.L. Frederick (1). (Plate 80 in vol.II with contemporary replacement of inner margin.
Contemporary red half morocco over green/blue paper-covered boards, the flat spines divided into five compartments by double gilt fillets, lettered in gilt in the second and fourth compartments.
Provenance: Owen Mason (?of Rhode Island, 1796-1873, ownership inscriptions dated 1841 noting a purchase price of $8.00)
Very rare uncoloured issue of an important American flora, "magnificently illustrated" (DAB) with "Plates [that] are clear, soft and lovely" (Bennett). The work includes the first successful use of stipple-engraving in the United States. This set includes the rare 'To Subscribers' leaf in Volume II.
In addition to its significance as a botanical work, Barton's Flora... is also one of the most important early colour plate books entirely produced in the United States. "The plates were made by [among others] Cornelius Tiebout, the first really skilled engraver born in the United States, although he trained in London for two years in the 1790's to perfect his technique" (Reese). This uncoloured issue is particularly interesting as Barton states in the advertisement to the first volume that some of the "plates are printed in colour" - none of the plates in the present volume show any signs of colour and are therefore a variant issue of those used in the coloured version, and not merely plates that were not hand-coloured in this country. These may constitute early experimental issues of the plates - produced before the combination of colour-printing and hand-colouring was arrived at. The text gives details of each species, its Latin binomial, common name, and class and order according to the Linnaean system, followed by interesting information about the history of the discovery of the species and details about its geographical range. The present set is particularly desirable as it includes the rare "To Subscribers" leaf occasionally found in the second volume, it is here bound between pp. 42 and 43. It was issued as a pair to pp. 41/42 but is not included in the pagination and was designed to be discarded. Like many other works of its day, Barton's book was originally issued in parts, with the first parts appearing in 1820 and the final ones in 1824, hence the dates given above. Barton, the nephew of Benjamin Smith Barton, was appointed a naval surgeon in 1809 and remained on the Navy's list throughout his life (he was buried with full military honours in Philadelphia in 1856). "In 1815 Barton was chosen professor of botany at the University of Pennsylvania, charming many with his light-hearted herborizing trips along the Schuykill and his lectures which were, contrary to bookish times, demonstrated in his well-stocked conservatory" (DAB). His botanical publications, which appeared over a relatively short span of nine years, began with his Flora Philadelphicae prodromus (1815) and culminated with the present work (1820-24) and his Vegetable materia medica of the United States (1817-19).
BM(NH) I, p.105; Bennett p. 9 (incorrect plate count); Dunthorne 26; Nissen BBI 84; MacPhail Benjamin Smith Barton and William Crillon Barton 19; Meisel III, p.385; Pritzel 446; Reese Stamped with a National Character 11; Sabin 3858; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 236.