NUTTALL, Thomas (1786-1859)
The Genera of North American Plants, and a Catalogue of the Species to the Year 1817
Philadelphia: Printed for the author by D. Heartt, 1818. 12mo, 2 vols. (6 3/4 x 4 1/4 inches). viii, 312; 254, 10 [index], pp.
Contemporary half calf, rebacked with portion of original backstrip laid down. Discreet library markings including small embossed stamps on page 17.
Landmark first edition of the first comprehensive botany of the United States, by "one of the greatest plant explorers of North America" (MacPhail).
Thomas Nuttall was one of the most intrepid American naturalists of his day, traveling extensively in the Mississippi Valley and the far west in the 1820s and 1830s to gather botanical specimens. The catalogue of species in this work was intended to serve as a supplement to Pursh's "Flora," the first botanical record of the Lewis and Clark expedition. "A remarkable summary of his own explorations, described with the benefit of the collections in the Philadelphia Academy where he worked night and day on their characters" (Ewan, Short History of Botany, p. 40). "'The Genera of North American Plants' began as a revision of Pursh's 'Flora Americae septentrionalis' ... In the course of time, however, it developed into a more substantial work in its own right without much connection with Pursh's 'Flora.' Graustein calls it 'an amazing publication for a young self-taught botanist who had spent less than seven years in North America' and adds 'it proved a landmark in American botany initiating the shift of the study of North American plants from the eastern hemisphere to the western.' Constantine Samuel Rafinesque gave it a laudatory review (American monthly magazine and critical review, January 1818) and W. J. Hooker declared that it established 'an era in the history of American botany' ... The cost of publication of the work was borne by Nuttall and tradition has it that he set most of the type himself" (MacPhail).
Pritzel 6772; Sabin 56347; Meisel III: p. 383; Stafleu & Cowan 6922; MacPhail, Thomas Nuttall 2.