REDOUTÉ, Pierre-Joseph (1759-1840), illustrator; and Etienne-Pierre VENTENAT (1757-1808)
Jardin de la Malmaison
Paris: Crapelet for the author, 1803-. Folio, 2 vols bound in 1. (21 x 13 3/4 inches). Half-title. Dedication to the Empress Josephine. 120 fine stipple-engraved plates after Pierre-Joseph Redouté, printed in colors and finished by hand by L.J. Allaias, J.B. Dien, P.F. Legrand, and others.
Half calf, marbled boards, spine in seven compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second, marbled endpapers, marbled edges.
A fine copy of the first edition of "the great opus of Redouté, among the most important monuments of botanical illustration ever to be published" (Stafleu).
This work is a record of Josephine Bonaparte's gardens at Malmaison, near Paris, which she purchased around 1798 and designed in the landscape style of English gardening. At Malmaison, Josephine gathered one of the world's greatest collections of flora, encompassing 726 hectares (nearly 1,800 acres). She employed a large number of botanists and horticulturalists, including Thomas Blaikie, Alexander Howatson, and André Dupont, to procure specimens and tasked Ventenat, the eminent botanist and librarian, with the job of cataloguing them. At its peak, the garden contained over 2,000 plants of 250 varieties, which she collected from all over the world, as far as the Caribbean and Australia, including species of eucalyptus, hibiscus, camellia, geraniums, cacti, rhododendrons, dahlias, and magnolias. For the rest of her life, Josephine devoted herself to natural history, cultivating and overseeing the gardens at Malmaison, which would become her most important and enduring legacy. "...the abundance of rare plants and their careful selection transformed Malmaison into a horticultural enclave in an otherwise French monoculture at the beginning of the nineteenth century" (Griesinger). To document her significant collection, Josephine commissioned several books only several years later: one of them was "Jardin de la Malmaison," which was issued in 20 parts over a three-year period, with Ventenat writing the text and the celebrated French painter Redouté executing the drawings of the plant specimens. "This series of one hundred and twenty coloured plates, plus... Les Liliacees, constitute the highest peak of Redouté's artistic and botanical achievement; both books are among the most important monuments of botanical illustration ever to be published... This magnificent publication brings Redouté to the top of his artistic career and amply justifies his fame as one of the most eminent botanical illustrators of all time" (Stafleu in Lawrence Redouteana, p. 21). After Josephine's death in 1814, her son tried to maintain her collection but the house and land at Malmaison were eventually sold off and separated, leaving the current garden only a fraction of the magnificent garden it once was. Though the gardens only lasted about 25 years, Josephine's collection is immortalized in this work and Redouté's exceptionally fine illustrations.
Dunthorne 255; Great Flower Books p. 79; I. MacPhail in Lawrence, A Catalogue of Redoutéana exhibited at the Hunt Botanical Library (Pittsburgh: 1963) 12; Nissen BBI 2049; Pritzel 9734; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 16.007.