MICHAUX, André (1746-1802)
Histoire des Chênes de l'Amérique, ou descriptions et figures de toutes les espèces et variétés de Chênes de I'Amérique Septentrionale, considérées sous les rapports de la Botanique, de leur culture et de leur usage
Paris: de l'Imprimerie Crapelet, 1801. Folio. (17 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches). Half-title. 36 copper-engraved plates after Pierre-Joseph Redouté (32) or Henri-Joseph Redouté (4), by Plée (33) or Sellier (3). Minor foxing.
Twentieth century half green morocco and green cloth boards, spine with raised bands in six compartments, panelled and lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers and edges
The first edition Michaux's magisterial monograph on all the known species of North American Oaks, illustrated by the best known botanical painter of all time.
In this excellent and very beautiful monograph Michaux begins by giving an historical overview of the Oak, before giving detailed descriptions of all the American species he had encountered. Starting with the Latin binomial, he gives a brief description in botanical Latin, Latin synonyms and the name in French and English. This is followed by notes on the trees height when full-grown, and descriptions of the timber, leaves, flowers and its geographical distribution. The remainder of each entry is made up of Michaux's observations which concentrate on whether the tree is worth cultivating, and if so for what reason. Thirty-two of the plates in this work are particularly striking early examples of the work of Pierre-Joseph Redouté, the remaining four are after his brother Henri-Joseph. The classically understated line engraved plates allow the unerring sense of design of the master botanical painter to be fully appreciated. All of the main species are illustrated by one plate, and a number by two. These second plates include acutely observed studies of young plants or details of leaves. "André Michaux was sent to America in 1785 by the French government, which asked him to collect timber trees and plants useful as either food or medicine. Michaux... was accompanied by his young son, François André, and a gardener, Paul Saulnier. A nursery garden was established in New Jersey, not far from New York, where Saulnier was to be in charge of a base for collections waiting to be sent back to Europe. During the next ten years, thousands of trees were collected by Michaux [on his travels to the southern Appalachians, Spanish Florida, the Bahamas, and the Carolina mountains. These were taken to the royal nurseries at Rambouillet... [but] relatively few of the plants survived... A second Michaux nursery was established at Charleston, South Carolina, under the care of François André until 1790, when he went back to France [to study medicine]. Meanwhile his father traveled from Hudson's Bay to Florida and west to the Mississippi in his search for new plants... The elder Michaux returned to France in 1796" (Oak Spring Sylva). Here he tried unsuccessfully to raise money from the government for further exploration of North America, and eventually accepted a post on Baudin's expedition to Australia, leaving France in October 1800. This was the last time that François André was to see his father (he died in Madagascar in 1802), and the younger Michaux was left to see the present work through the presses. However, he was more successful in getting official backing and visited America twice more: firstly from 1801 to 1803 and finally from 1806 to 1809. This copy MacPhail's "b" issue, with the preferred complete form of the text (the prior issue including only four pages of text with brief descriptions compared to the present 49-pages of full descriptions).
Great Flower Books (1990) p.119; MacPhail Redouteana 8; MacPhail Sterling Morton Library Bibliographies... André & François-André Michaux 1b; Madol 20; Meisel III, 362; Nissen BBI 1358; Oak Spring Silva 18; Pritzel 6194; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 5957.