6 volumes in three, folio (14 7/16 x 9 1/8 in; 366 x 232 mm). Binding: Contemporary German half sheep with speckled boards, spines gilt in eight compartments with morocco labels. Provenance: Johannis-Hus Bibliothek (engraved bookplate)
Occasional browning of text, a few plates lightly soiled or browned, small tear on lower margins of F1 and K1 in Centuria III (not affecting text), hinges in vol. 3 just cracking. Boards rubbed, extremities of binding somewhat worn, with skillful repairs.
A fine copy of one of the most important early German works on medicinal plants. Conceived and initially overseen by Christoph Jakob Trew, who wrote the text for the first 90 plates. Following Trew's death, Georg Rudolph Böhmer and Ernst Gottlob Bose, both leading botanists from Leipzig, continued the effort under the editorship of Christian Gottlieb Ludwig. Nikolaus Friedrich Eisenberger was responsible for re-engraving Blackwell's original 500 plates, providing an additional 100 and embellishing them with added details. Eisenberger is also known for his work on Trew's masterwork, the Hortus Nitidissimis (see lot 60). The edition was issued to subscribers in thirteen installments divided into six centuria. The present copy is the publisher's complete copy with the reprinted title-page for the first volume dated 1757.
The genesis of the first edition is one of the best known in early botanical literature: Elizabeth Blackwell undertook her labor with the aim of raising money to free her husband, Alexander, from debtor's prison. With the support of Isaac Rand, Blackwell drew, engraved, and colored the illustrations herself, using specimens from the Chelsea Physic Garden. The work, which was originally issued in weekly parts between 1737 and 1739 in London, was a great success, and afforded Alexander his freedom. Ever the scoundrel, Alexander left his family for Sweden in 1742, where he was appointed court physician to the Swedish king (despite his complete lack of formal medical training). The young "doctor" was hanged for treason in 1748 for his involvement in a political conspiracy over the royal line of succession. By the time of the publication of the present work Elizabeth, a widow, was apparently denied any profits from the enterprise.
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