Folio (350 x 250 mm.), nineteenth century half green morocco, gilt ruled, with blind embossed cloth boards, raised spine rebacked preserving the original, ornate gilt floral compartments, gilt title, gilt edged, endpapers marbled. With engraved aquatint title in early hand colour, a 3 page subscriber list and 20 original coloured aquatints, each accompanied by an uncoloured example, each with a leaf of accompanying letter press text. very light wear to the binding, otherwise in good condition.
This illustrated botanical work includes a very fine series of plates. It was likely used as a teaching manual as the title page states that it contains ‘a Selection of Subjects from the choicest Exotics painted after nature, with a correct outline of each, and Instructions for producing a fac-simile of the finished Drawing by Miss Smith’. The identity of the latter is unknown but her initial is believed to be J. A Miss J. Smith who did botanical work in 1798 for William Sole’s ‘Menthae Britannicae’. Apparently residing at Adwick Hall, near Doncaster, West Yorkshire, it had been built in 1673 for Richard Washington. A large portion of the land was developed as ‘Woodlands’ by a Thomas Bradford in the late eighteenth century. This is the likely cause of the gradual ruin of Adwick Hall which was finally demolished around 1866.
In the early nineteenth century it became fashionable to produce instruction books, many of very high quality. Blunt describes the plates as ‘excellent fine-grained aquatints.’ It details the preparation of the colours, their best use and directions on how and when to apply them. The work is undated but the first part was announced in the May 1818 issue of the Edinburgh Magazine. It could be purchased as a complete book for 5 guineas. The flowers illustrated in the book are stated to be from the ‘botanic garden of Mr. W. Crowder of Doncaster’.
It is dedicated to Princess Elizabeth (1770-1840), the seventh child of George III who was herself a keen amateur artist. Indeed, she was behind the publication of several works and this may well be one of them. The list of subscribers cites just 88 copies so the print run was very small. A Mr. Ackermann of London subscribed to the most; 10 copies. No doubt Rudolph Ackermann, the printer and publisher of several high-quality books at the time. Being a working book, very few examples survive. That in the Cambridge University Library whose acquisition was announced in 2007, is the only one to have been coloured according to the instructions indicating that once ‘used’ they were often discarded. Dunthorne wrote in 1938 that the work was ‘a very scarce drawing book’. Just six examples are recorded in WorldCat in institutions worldwide. This example is lacking the loose erratum slip sometimes found.
Provenance: with original bookseller’s label of Simms & Dinham, Exchange Street, Manchester, pasted inside upper cover. Blunt (1950) p. 218; Dunthorne (1938) p. 46, no. 283; Nissen BBI 1855; ODNB; Sitwell (1956) p. 140; see also Cambridge University Library, ‘Unique acquisition for University Library,’ 21 December 2007 and ‘The Regency Blog of Lesley-Anne McLeod.’