(Paris: 1768). 343 x 267 mm. (13 1/2 x 10 1/2"). Two volumes. FIRST EDITION.
VERY PLEASING CONTEMPORARY SMOOTH CALF, ATTRACTIVELY GILT, covers with French fillet border, raised bands, spine gilt in pretty floral compartments with tulip cornerpieces and a large floral spray at center surrounded by small tools, one burgundy and one brown morocco label, turn-ins with gilt foliate roll, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. WITH 181 VERY FINE ENGRAVED BOTANICAL PLATES (including an engraved frontispiece depicting a man and woman picking pears) as called for, illustrating the seeds, blooms, and edible products of fruit-bearing trees, the plates designed by Magdeleine-Françoise Basseporte, Aubriet, and others and engraved by Catherine Haussard, P. L. Cor, Henriquez Herisset fils, Menil, Charles Milsan, Poletnich, and others. Title pages with small early circular monogram stamp. Nissen BBI 550; Dunthorne 100; Pritzel 2466; Raphael "Pomona" 28; Brunet II, 871. One cover of volume II with a (well-masked) six-inch abrasion, joints of first volume beginning to crack along first compartment at top and bottom on front and at bottom on back, a few tiny wormholes and small patches of lost patina from insect activity, but the handsome original bindings entirely solid, quite lustrous, and generally well preserved. A dozen gatherings with faint overall browning because of paper stock (though the plates almost entirely unaffected), isolated rust spots and other trivial imperfections, otherwise a fine copy internally, the text especially fresh and clean, the plates richly impressed, and the margins remarkably ample.
With a fine contemporary binding that measures 343 x 267 mm., this is an extremely large as well as quite pleasing copy of a beautifully illustrated book by the man Raphael calls "one of the outstanding botanists of the 18th century" in the fields of plant physiology and agriculture. Henri Duhamel du Monceau (1700-82) was a justifiably celebrated Parisian polymath who gave up on formal university training to take lodgings near the Botanical Gardens, where he pursued his own plan of learning from the director and from other distinguished persons who gathered there. He cultivated trees on his own estates, authored a number of important books on topics as diverse as agronomy, marine architecture, and ichthyology, and was a member of all the important scientific academies. This treatise on fruit culture proved to be of considerable importance, and the plates (designed by Magdeleine-Francoise Basseporte, Aubriet, and others and engraved by Catherine Haussard, P. L. Cor, Henriquez Herisset fils, Menil, Charles Milsan, Poletnich, and others) were among the most beautiful botanical engravings of the period. The text begins by describing the appropriate methods for pruning and grafting fruit trees, and goes on to discuss the different varieties of individual fruits, including 58(!) types of pears. The engravings show uncommon consistency from beginning to end in how substantial and skillfully executed they are. The images are faithful to nature, thoughtfully designed, and so finely wrought as to appear luscious. The work is uncommonly seen in an attractive contemporary binding, and is rarer still in the kind of tall copy offered here. (ST11764)
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PJP Catalog: Cat 69.133