MICHAUX, François-André (1770-1855)
The North American Sylva, or a Description of Forest Trees, of the United States, Canada, and Nova Scotia, considered particularly with respect to their use in the Arts, and their introduction into Commerce
Paris: Printed by C. d'Hautel, 1819. 2 volumes, octavo. (10 1/2 x 6 3/4 inches). 156 hand-finished colour-printed stipple-engraved plates after P.J. Redouté (27), P. Bessa (92) and others by Gabriel (108), Bessin (16) and others. Light foxing, mostly to the text.
Publisher's pink paper boards, flat spines with black morocco lettering pieces.
Provenance: Steven Longfellow (signature in vols. 2-3); Henry W. Longfellow (booklabels; autograph letter signed, dated January 1853, to Longfellow from his sister Anne, "I send you a keepsake from the Old House...")
First edition in English of Michaux's masterpiece and a classic of American natural history: the most important work relating to American trees published in the 19th century. With provenance to American poet Henry W. Longfellow.
Michaux's work is based on his and his father's extensive travels in the eastern half of America from the 1790s on. Both men were friendly with Jefferson and other leading figures, who aided them in their work and travels. The masterwork was first published in parts between 1810 and 1813 as Histoire des arbres forestiers de l'Amerique septentrionale. In 1817, Michaux began work on an English translation, issuing a section of the text on oak trees (believed to have been translated by Michaux himself) with no plates, which was then cancelled (MacPhail 16). When the first edition in English was subsequently issued between 1817 and 1819, the first issue contained the text from the cancelled publication, with the remainder of the text translated by Augustus L. Hillhouse of Connecticut. The subsequent issues contained the entire Hillhouse translation printed in Paris by C. D'Hautel (and with page 112 numbered "112-136" to account for Hillhouse's translation being shorter than the previous), as in the present set. The beautifully-executed images, from the same plates in all three issues, were executed by the engraver Gabriel and others after original drawings by the great French botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté and his associate Pancrace Bessa. This third issue in two volumes is the most complete and accurate, with corrections to plate numbers, signatures and pagination. Of the issues containing the present Hillhouse translation, Sabin writes: "Of the various editions with the text in English this, notwithstanding some typographical errors, is the best." And referring to Michaux's work with Thomas Nuttall's continuation, Sabin continues: "It is no exaggeration to remark that it is the most complete work of its kind, and is a production of unrivalled interest and beauty."
Bennett, p.76; MacPhail André & François-André Michaux 17c; Meisel III, pp.379-81; cf. Oak Spring Sylva 20; Sabin 48694; cf. Savage, André and François André Michaux (Charlottesville, 1986); Stafleu & Cowan III, 5962.