MILLER, John (1715?-1790?)
Illustratio Systematis Sexualis Linnaei ... An Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus
London: published and sold by the author, [1770-]1777. One volume bound in two, folio. (20 3/4 x 14 1/4 inches). Engraved frontispiece, engraved title, 4 engraved plates of botanical details, 104 engraved plates, each in two states (uncolored and finely hand colored; 66 of the hand colored plates also before letters), all by and after Miller. Extra-illustrated with 9 additional plates, each in uncolored and colored states (one before letters). 104 plates, each in two states: hand-coloured before letters and uncoloured with letters, with 9 additional plates, each in two states as above. 1 p. list of subscribers, 2 pp. errata at back of second volume.
Contemporary English red straight-grained morocco gilt in the style of Staggemeier and Welcher, covers with wide decorative borders of fillets enclosing drawer-handle roll, decorative corner-pieces, spine in eight compartments with double-raised bands decorated in gilt, green silk endpapers, gilt edges
A fantastic example of the first edition, with the plates in both coloured and uncoloured states, in a glorious contemporary binding and extra-illustrated with plates not usually found.
The usual requirement is for 104 plates present in two states and 4 plates in only one state. The present copy includes all 108 plates from the first edition present in two states. The work is further enhanced by the presence of the contemporary addition of the "extra-illustrations." These include the "Tea Plant" plate, also in two states, inserted with the descriptive text leaf in the correct position in Linnæan class XIII in volume I; the 7 "Icones Novæ" plates (dated 1780 in the imprint) in two states; and at the end of the second volume, an unrecorded plate of a climbing lily (Gloriosa Superba), also in two states (the uncolored state on wove paper watermarked "1794," the handcolored state before letters).
The work was issued in 20 parts between 1770 and 1777. According to the list of subscribers, 105 copies were ordered by 85 individuals. The uncolored plates invariably included lettering for scientific purposes, while the handcolored plates are often without lettering and the vast majority are printed using a warm brown ink with the intent of making the images more aesthetically pleasing. The plants described and illustrated came in the main from Dr. John Fothergill's famous garden in Upton, Essex. Fothergill was an enthusiastic supporter and indeed superintendent of the work, but refused Miller's attempt to dedicate the work to him. He felt that dedications were "more productive of envy to the patron, than of advantage to the author."
John Miller (1715-1780), born Johann Sebastian Müller in Nuremberg, came to England in 1744 and remained there for the rest of his life. He was a botanical artist and engraver of considerable repute and came to the attention of the great naturalist Linnæus through the connection of John Ellis. Linnæus had nothing but praise for the artist, stating that the plates were "more beautiful and more accurate" than any he had ever seen. Referring to the work, Lettsom in his 1789 Memoirs of John Fothergill writes: an "immense work of botany wherein the pencil of Miller illustrated, in a style of unprecedented elegance, the sexual system of Linnæus."
Dunthorne 207; Great Flower Books (1990) p.120; Henrey III, 1153; Nissen BBI 1372; Sprague 'John Sebastian Miller's Icones Novae' in Journal of Botany , vol. 74 (London: 1936), pp.208-209; cf. J. C. Lettsom, The Memoirs of John Fothergill , p. 106.