With 54 Large Format Engravings of Trees, Including Four Extra with Hand Coloring


(London: Printed by T. Bensley for C. J. Kennion, 1815). 362 x 292 mm. (14 1/4 x 11 1/2"). 6 p.l., 48 pp. FIRST EDITION.

Pleasing recent sympathetic sprinkled half calf, marbled sides, raised bands, morocco label, spine with multiple decorative gilt rules, new endpapers. Aquatint title vignette of the three principal types of English trees and 54 ENGRAVINGS (FOUR DOUBLE-PAGE), SHOWING TREES AND LEAVES, with the four double-page plates, one single-page plate, and the engraved title vignette colored by a later hand. Abbey "Life" 147; cf. Pritzel 4621 (citing the 1844 edition). Title page neatly remargined, almost invisible repair at extreme inner margin of one plate, two plates with small faint dampstain at fore edge outside plate mark, small area at bottom of one plate with tiny specks of paint, very slight darkening or foxing at extreme outer margins of most leaves, slight offsetting from plates (especially the double-page images), single-page plates somewhat more noticeably affected by foxing (one or two plates rather foxed), but the foxing almost entirely marginal, never offensive, and entirely absent from more than 20 of the plates. A pleasing copy, despite imperfections, of a very attractively illustrated book in an excellent new binding.

This is an uncommon copy of the preferred state (with four additional double-page engravings) of the first printing of a handsome large-format early 19th century illustrated book on trees. It examines in minute detail the artistic rendering of trees, covering, among other things, their "characters," the particular characteristics of the various species (focusing primarily on oak, elm, and ash), and the practical approaches to the faithful replication of trees with drawings. The plates represent 50 different views of 22 different species, with the four extra double-page plates depicting various species as part of extremely pleasing landscapes that also feature human figures, animals, and generally well-developed backgrounds. As an artist, one of the chief virtues of Kennion (1744-1809) was his insistence upon accuracy. As he tells us here, Kennion decried the general belief that the tree was "thought to be an object so fully delivered over to the will of the artist, and so little depending on any determinable character of lines of forms, that it may be represented in any manner." In fact, Kennion believed that with trees depicted genuinely upon "the principles of nature, it will be found that the reverse . . . is the truth; and that no objects whatever require so much vigour, decision, and swiftness of execution, or can so little bear retouching, ragged and smeary daubing, or any thing that shall muddle or injure the rich transparency and lightness for which the foliage of trees is so particularly remarkable." According to DNB, Kennion became a Fellow of the Society of Artists in 1790, and more than 30 of his works were shown at exhibitions held by that society and at the Royal Academy. In 1803 he issued the prospectus for an ambitious work entitled "Elements of Landscape and Picturesque Beauty," which was to appear in four volumes. However, he died in 1809, and the only part to be completed was the present work, which was finished and published by his son, Charles. This first printing of Kennion's essay is very often found with only the 50 single-page plates (of the 10 copies listed in ABPC since 1975, seven have just the 50 engravings), and the work sometimes appears with paper watermarked after the date of imprint. The text of our copy was printed on Whatman paper dated 1812. The quality of the paper seems to be inferior in most, if not all, copies, as the work is almost always rather foxed.

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PJP Catalog: XMAS16.033