(Frankfurt: Anthonium Kempner, 1612). 387 x 260 mm. (15 1/4 x 10 1/4"). Part I:  leaves (including the engraved title, the last leaf blank) plus plates; Part II:  leaf (title page) plus plates, followed by a blank leaf (not mentioned by Hunt). Two parts in one volume. FIRST EDITION.
Pleasant contemporary mottled calf, raised bands, spine gilt in compartments with scrolling cornerpieces, intricate central fleurons of martagon lilies, this design mirrored by lilies in the center of the border on either side and enclosed by a lozenge of tiny star and flower stamps, rebacked in the 20th century (with a lighter colored calf), preserving much of the original spine (but the top compartment and half the second compartment, with titling, now blank). WITH 110 FINE BOTANICAL PLATES: 67 in part I depicting flowers grown from bulbs, 43 in part II depicting flowers with fibrous roots, as well as exotic plants, fruits, and fragrant trees (plate 33 misbound after plate 39), engraved title page, portrait. A preliminary leaf consisting of a half-leaf containing printed Latin text of planting instructions and with a handwritten translation in French below it on a tipped-on half leaf, 37 plates (mostly in part II) with the common French name of the plant added in a (hardly noticeable) small, neat early (17th century?) hand. Nissen 1920; Pritzel 9073; Hunt 196; Tomasi, "An Oak Spring Flora," pp. 42-46. Corners rather rubbed, covers pitted (as always with early mottled calf), but the binding completely solid and with pleasing original elements. Remargining (with modern paper) to the engraved title at the beginning and the following leaf with engraved portrait (first leaf with small losses at the fore edge to the rule border and just a very small part of the image), two subsequent leaves with minor remargining as well, 20 plates with very narrow fore margins (the binder having just grazed the plate mark on 13 of these), one plate with eight dime-size ink smears, the "planting instructions" leaf with overall browning and one-inch wide (wax?) stain across the lower half of the verso, other minor imperfections, but in very pleasing condition where it matters, the vast majority of THE PLATES IN AN EXCELLENT STATE--with strong impressions on generally clean, fresh leaves.
As surprising as it might seem today, this lovely collection of floral images was originally published as a catalogue for selling bulbs and plants: Emanuel Sweert (1552-1612) was an Amsterdam dealer in beautiful and rare objects, including the bulbs and exotic plants that were "en vogue" at the time. He was so well known as a floriculturist that he even had a flower named for him, the white "Iris sweerti." The 110 plates in this volume, depicting more than 560 different flowers, illustrate what Tomasi calls the "wide variety of cultivated and bulbous plant species" in Sweerts' inventory. These include, rather surprisingly, various cacti and a pineapple plant in addition to the expected Dutch bulbs and roses. Although an artist himself, Sweerts was not responsible for these engravings; Tomasi says that many of those in part I were "directly copied, with slight variations, from the trial proof copy of de Bry's 'Florilegium novum,' printed just one year earlier." It is likely that more than one artist was involved in engraving the plates. Whoever did the large, striking plates, they are all attractive, and many of them are remarkably beautiful, especially for illustrations done in the early 17th century. The engravings are delicate, detailed, elegant, graceful, and intelligently composed. Apart from the floral cuts, the two engravings at the front are also worth comment. The large engraving on the title page is a charming depiction of the goddess Flora, flanked by Apollo and Diana, seated before a formal garden surrounded by woods. The west wind blows blossoms across the scene, a star shines in the east, and a tetragrammaton inside a sunburst represents the omnipresence of God. The attractive frontispiece portrait of Sweert depicts a proper Dutch merchant with one hand resting on a skull and the other holding a rose, framed by the Latin motto "Vita hominum flos est" ("The life of man is like that of a flower"), an adage that was sadly prophetic: the author died soon after the present work was published. The text includes indices of the plants in French, German, Dutch, and Latin, and planting instructions in Latin (augmented in our copy by the handwritten transcription in French mentioned above). Although our copy is not without condition problems, it is a good deal better than most copies of this book; because it is so beautiful and because it would inevitably invite avid use, it almost always shows up on the market in deplorable shape. (ST12515)
Add to Cart Price: $17,500.00
PJP Catalog: CA18BF.037