MORDANT DE LAUNAY, Jean Claude Michel (d.1816) & Jean Louis Auguste LOISELEUR-DESLONGCHAMPS (1774-1849); - Panacre BESSA (1772-1830)
Herbier général de l'amateur, contenant la description, l'histoire, les propriétés et la culture des végétaux utiles et agréables
Paris: Didot jeune (vol.I) or Fain (vols.II-VIII) for Audot, [1814-] 1816-1827. 8 volumes, small 4to. (9 7/8 x 6 1/2 inches). Half-titles to vols. 2-8, 8pp. subscriber's list in final vol. 575 fine hand-coloured engraved plates (6 folding, plates unnumbered but numbered in the text 1-572, plus 171, 172 and 199 bis) after P. Bessa, P.J. Redouté by Barrois, Bigant and others.
Modern red morocco backed marbled paper covered boards, flat spines gilt, marbled endpapers
One of the finest French flower books with spectacular plates largely after Bessa, the most talented of Redouté's pupils.
Rarely found complete, this work was issued in 96 parts over a period of 13 years, with the first 11 parts of the first volume by Mordant de Launay, and the remainder by Loiseleur-Deslongchamps. The original drawings for the finely coloured and botanically accurate plates are mostly by Bessa although a few are by Redouté and others by Pierre Antoine Poiteau. Bessa was born in 1772 and was a pupil of both Van Spaendonck and Redouté. He is reckoned among the best of Redouté's pupils and collaborated with him on several projects, such as Bonpland's Description des plantes rares cultiveé à Malmaison .
The work concentrates on the highly decorative flowering plants and more exotic species (including several early depictions of native Australian plants) although some fruit are included, as well. In the introduction in vol.I an historical and geographical survey is given of all the most important botanical works published in Europe, and the author argues that the plates in the present work (printed en gris and then hand-coloured) are superior to the colour-printed plates of other contemporary French works in terms of the accuracy of the colouring. He then goes on to claim that, because the text of the present work includes notes on the history, uses and properties of the plants described, as well as notes on their cultivation, it is superior to both Curtis' Botanical Magazine and Andrews' Botanist's Repository.
The original drawings for the Herbier général de l'amateu r were given by Charles X to the Duchesse de Berry, to whom Bessa had given painting lessons. She in turn left them to her sister, the Empress of Brazil. In 1947, the collection was dispersed at auction.
Great Flower Books (1990) p. 85; Nissen BBI , 2323; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 4952.