ROYLE, John Forbes (1799-1858)
Illustrations of the Botany and other branches of the Natural History of the Himalayan Mountains, and of the Flora of Cashmere
London: printed by J.L. Cox & Sons for Wm. H. Allen & Co., [1833-]1839[-1840]. 2 volumes, small folio. (14 5/8 x 10 5/8 inches). Half-titles. Hand-coloured aquatint frontispiece view of the Himalayas by J. Clark after Lt.Col. R. Smith, 1 hand-coloured plate of a geological section of the Himalayas, 3 uncoloured lithographic plates of fossils, hand-coloured lithographed plan of the botanic garden at Saharanpore and 96 hand-coloured natural-history plates, drawn on stone by Maxim Gauci and others, coloured by John Clark[e] or Mr.Barclay, after Vishupersaud, Miss Drake, W. Saunders, Luchmun Sing, J.T. Hart and others, printed by Graf & Soret (comprising: 2 plates of mammals, 2 plates of birds, 2 plates of insects, and 90 botanical plates).
Expertly bound to style in half green morocco over period green cloth covered boards, spine with raised bands in six compartments, lettered in gilt in the second and fourth, top edge gilt
First edition of this "pioneering ecological study" (Rix) on the trees, shrubs and flowers of the Himalayan region of the Indian sub-continent, illustrated with delightful images after Vishnuperand: the greatest Indian botanical artist of his time.
Born in Cawnpore the son of an officer in the service of the East India Company, John Forbes Royle joined the medical staff of the Bengal Army in Calcutta in 1819 or 1820. Three years later, in 1823, he was able to combine his medical and military duties with his love of botany when he was appointed superintendant of the botanical garden at Saharunpore. He carried out a thorough investigation of the properties of traditional plant-based Indian drugs, buying them in the bazaars, and in the present work (vol.I, pp.239-240) he also recommends the establishment of cinchona (the basis for quinine) in India. He was one of the first to botanise in the Himalayas, and his position at Saharunpore allowed him to commission Vishnupersaud and others to produce an important and valuable collection of beautiful and highly accurate drawings of the specimens he found during his plant-hunting expeditions. The resulting collection also contained the first visual record of many species. In 1831, Forbes returned to England with his herbarium and collection of drawings, and the publication of the present work began with the publication of the first (of 11) parts in September 1833. The work progressed steadily until May 1836 (when the 9th part was published), but Forbes appointment as professor of materia medica at King's College, London, in 1837 seems to have delayed the appearance of the tenth part until February 1839, and the final eleventh part in March or April 1840. The majority of the plates are after Vishnupersaud (or Vishnu Prasad), "the most talented of the native Indian [botanical] artists" (Blunt). He was employed by many of the most important plant collectors and botanists of the time, including Nathaniel Wallich and Robert Wight, and unfortunately, he remains one of only a handful of early 19th-century Indian botanical artists whose names are known - this in itself is an indication of the high esteem in which his work was held by western botanists at the time. An examination of the large collection of his original drawings still held by the India Office Library and the Kew Herbarium confirms his reputation amongst his contemporaries. The transfer of the drawings onto stone was carried out by the greatest of the early lithographers of botanical subjects: the Maltese born Maxim Gauci, and, unusually, Forbes also gives the names of the colourists: Mr. Clarke (probably John Clark who coloured the plates in Wallich's Plantae Asiaticae) and Mr. Barclay.
BM(NH) IV,p.1758; Bradley Bibliography I,p.472; Great Flower Books (1990) p.134; Nissen BBI 1690, Massachusetts Horticultural Society Library p.272; M.Rix. The Art of the Plant World p.183; Stafleu & Cowan IV,9734.