WALLICH, Nathaniel (1786-1854)
Plantae Asiaticae rariores; or, Descriptions and figures of a select number of unpublished East Indian plants
London: Richard Taylor for Treuttel and Würtz, 1829-1830-1832. 3 volumes, folio. (21 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches). Half-titles in vols I and III (as issued, no half-title in vol. II published). 295 hand-coloured lithographic plates on 294 sheets, by M. Gauci and Weddell after Gorchand, Vishnu Prasad, M. Curtis, Miss Drake, and others, (plates 222/223 constituting one folding plate as issued), printed by Engelmann, Graf, Coindet & Co., Engelmann & Co., and Graf & Soret, folding double-page engraved map (numbered plates 296-300) of India by J. Arrowsmith, with routes of various botanists marked in colours by hand. 3pp. list of 160 names subscribing for 225 copies in vol. 1. Usual oxidization at margins of a few plates in vol. 1.
Expertly bound to style in half period russia and period marbled paper covered boards, spine gilt with wide flat bands, marbled endpapers and edges
Provenance: Frederick du Cane Godman (bookplate)
A very fine, complete copy of this magnificent work: some of the finest images ever produced of the spectacular trees, shrubs and plants of India, Burma and Thailand.
A worthy successor to William Roxburgh, Wallich served as superintendent of the Calcutta botanical garden from 1817 to 1846. The present work was prepared for publication by Wallich during a leave of absence in 1828 - because of ill-health he had returned to England bringing with him a collection of about 8000 dried specimens as well 1200 original watercolour drawings executed from life. The majority of the specimens had been collected by Wallich himself during trips to Nepal, Western Hindostan, Ava and lower Burma -- but he also benefited from the explorations of his contemporaries, and their names and the areas they explored are recorded on the map at the end of the third volume. In the production of the original drawings, Wallich employed the talents of many of the same artists that had worked for Roxburgh, the two most notable being Vishnupersaud (or Vishnu Prasad, who Blunt calls the 'most talented of the native Indian artists') and Gorachand (or Gorchand). Wallich's Plantae Asiaticae was seen as an extension to Roxburgh's Plants of the Coromandel coast (London: 1795-1820) and was undertaken with the enthusiastic support of the East India Company who subscribed to 40 copies. It was published by subscription in 12 parts, priced at £ 2 10s per part, between September 1829 and August 1832. Wallich writes: "the present Work consists of a selection of plants made chiefly from a series of 1200 drawings, executed under my direction by Native Artists" (preface, p.x). The translation of the drawings onto stone was carried out by the Maltese born Maxim Gauci, perhaps the greatest of the early lithographers of botanical subjects. Wallich thanks him for his contribution in the Postscript, and unusually, he goes on to acknowledge the contribution of the colourist John Clark: "For both of these worthy men and admirable artists I beg to express my sincere respect." Two additional points that are rarely noted elsewhere are that plate number 6 is an engraving by Weddell (not a lithograph), and that the correct plate total is 294 not 295 as the folding plate is numbered 222/223. This fine example with important provenance to Frederick DuCane Godman, the English naturalist who conceived, authored, and underwrote the groundbreaking Biologia Centrali-Americana. Born into a wealthy English family in 1834 (his father was a partner in the British brewer Whitbread), Godman studied at Eton and Cambridge, where he met his later co-author Osbert Salvin and founded the British Ornithological Union. Much influenced by the 1859 publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, Godman and Salvin believed that a complete examination of the flora and fauna of Central America would reveal patterns on the distribution of species and evolution.
Arnold Arboretum p.729; Bradley Bibliography I, p.471; Dunthorne 326 (incorrect plate count); Great Flower Books (1990), p.149; Lack Garden Eden Masterpieces of Botanical Illustration 70; Nissen BBI 2099 (incorrect plate count); Stafleu & Cowan TL2 16.583; Pritzel 9957.