CORNUT, Jacques-Philippe (1606-1651)
Canadensium Plantarum Historia Enchiridion Botanicum
Paris: Simonem Le Moyne, 1635. Quarto. (8 1/2 x 6 1/8 inches). (16), 238 pp., (2). 68 full-page botanical etchings by Vallot, woodcut ornaments, initials, and title vignette.
First Edition of the first Canadian flora and one of the earliest North American herbals.
The author, Jacques Philippe Cornut, was professor of medicine at the University of Paris where he was able to study specimens which were brought or sent back to France by explorers and Jesuits. Many were provided by Jean and Vespasien Robin who supervised the gardens of Henry IV and the garden of the Paris Faculty of Medicine, and from Pierre Morin and his family who owned several Parisian commercial nurseries. Eighty-six different species are described, thirty native to north-eastern America, a number of them for the first time in any printed book. Among these is the Guernsey lily, so-named from its introduction into England some fifty years later when specimens were found on the island following the wreck of a ship lost en route from Cape Town with bulbs among the cargo (Blunt, The Art of Botanical Illustration, 1950). Also illustrated here for the first time are five South African bulbous plants. The sixty-eight finely executed botanical etchings have been attributed to Louis Vallet [1575-1657]. Appended to the main text is a catalogue of plants by Cornut entitled Enchiridion Botanicum Parisiense, apparently the first made of the flora of the environs of Paris. Linnaeus made reference to Cornut's work several times in his Species Plantarum, and Charles Plumier named the genus Cornutia in the family Lamiaceae in his honour. "The fact that the Historia was grounded in medical botany is important to understanding the conventions by which Cornut and his artist worked in producing and engraving the illustrations. Cornut's work stands near the end of a very old tradition of herbal literature, and the illustrations reflect conventions established in the mid-sixteenth century. At the same time, Cornut's illustrations were not printed from woodcuts, but from engraved copper plates that distinguish this book as one of the most beautiful American herbals ever published.
Nissen BBI 406; TPL 4663; Sabin 16809; Cleveland 190; Hunt 227; Pritzel 1894; Stafleu & Cowan 1233; European Americana 635/37; Bell C493; Blunt p. 102; Brunet, Suppt., 316-17; Dionne II 99; Gagnon II 519; Harrisse 59; JCB II p. 255; Lande 157; Leclerc 705; Muller p. 36; Vlach 183; Wellcome 1612.