SOLD FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE MORGAN LIBRARY AND MUSEUM
The Alecto edition, a monumental contribution to the graphic Arts of the 20th century and "a debt magnificently discharged to the memory of Banks, to Solander and Parkinson and to their engravers" (The Times). In 1979, Alecto Editions signed an agreement with the Museum trustees to produce an edition of up to 200 impressions of the plates. Although initially conceived as a monochrome publication, the work was ultimately printed in color directly from the plates. The technique, known as "à la poupée", derives from a method developed by Johannes Tayler in the 17th century and revived by Pierre-Joseph Redouté in the early 19th century. The involved process of inking with a rolled up "dolly" of cotton tarlatan, printing, and cleaning the plates can take upwards of three hours for each impression. The first two parts, published in an edition of 110 copies, were completed in 1980; by 1988, 650 of the 743 engravings had been finished. The balance of the plates and the index were accomplished in 1990. The trustees decided that no further impressions will be taken from the plates from this date for a period of fifty years. In practical terms, a second edition employing the same printing technique is exceedingly improbable. "There can be very few things more exciting for a publisher than the opportunity to bring to completion a piece of history. And when that history involves two of the great men of the 18th century and one of the epic voyages of discovery of all time one can only marvel at one's good fortune" (J. G. Studholme, Editions Alecto Limited).
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