Historia fisica, politica y natural de la Isla de Cuba. Paris: Libreria Arthus Bertrand, 1838 –1885, Hachette, 1861
13 volumes, folio (15 1/4 x 10 1/4 in.; 387 x 260 mm). Letterpress half-titles and titles, 239 engraved plates (123 hand-colored), 13 engraved maps (2 folding), 18 lithographic diagrams of which 8 are plates, numerous letterpress tables; lacking 28 plates (see below), some foxing and browning, a few marginal tears in maps. Contemporary maroon half calf and marbled boards, spines embossed and gilt-stamped; spines mostly faded to brown, a few corners bumped and repaired, a few upper hinges weak (vols.7, 9) or broken (vol. 8), head and foot of some backstrips rubbed.
First edition of one of "the greatest rarities of Cuban bibliography" (Chacón y Calvo) the first comprehensive monograph on the island.
Jorge Aguayo, who published the definitive study of La Sagra’s Historia in 1946, called it "the most complete and important work of its kind, detailing as it does the flora, fauna, and social, geographic condition of our land." The author treats the ethnic composition of the population, slavery, government, politics, economy, agriculture, commerce, climate, geography, flora and fauna, all of which is presented rigorously through statistical tables, maps, detailed description and drawings from nature.
This is the only copy of the complete 13-volume original Spanish edition to have appeared at auction in the last 30 years, as it contains the "Supplemento" volume (1861). This was lacking in the set that appeared in 1999 which was apparently a later issue (note the imprint dates for volume I, and III). La Sagra himself complained of the difficulties he found in supplying complete copies from the 190 parts over a period of twenty years:
"My voluminous work, printed with ill-conceived luxury, suffered
during its publication singular losses in the text that condemned it to
be little known even before it was finished. The copies that the
government generously procured in order to protect them were, for
the most part, incompletely distributed. Those who had taken
subscriptions in the island grew weary of waiting for the end of such
a protracted, slow, and irregular process of publication. And of the
copies that I had reserved for myself, only very few could be
completed, since a lot was lost in the warehouses of the editors
during the long years that were required to finish the
publication" (cited and translated by Ripoll, p. 422).
Aguayo comments: "La Sagra’s words explain why it is so difficult to complete a collection of such an important work ... In 1887, thirty years after it was finished, Bernard Quaritch, the famous London bookseller, commented that the Spanish edition of La Sagra had become rare and that it would increase in value with time." (cited in Ripoll, p. 423).
The legendary rarity of the work has created some confusion among bibliographers who call for varying numbers of plates. The most extensive enumeration is given by Ripoll and it is to his copy that the present copy is compared below.
The present copy consists of the following:
I. Introduccion, geografia, clima y estadistica. Paris: Bertrand, 1838 (i.e. 1842). 18 lithographic diagrams of which 8 are plates; some foxing in preliminaries, a few quires lightly browned. The imprint on the title reads "1838" but the introduction and some of the citations are dated "1842". The sections on poblacion and agricultura are included but are not mentioned on the title.
II. Primera parte. Historia fisica y politica. Tomo II. Comercio maritimo, rentas y gastos, fuerza armada, apendice. Paris: Bertrand, 1842. 13 engraved maps (2 folding); some foxing in text and maps, 2 tears in outer and upper margins of Juan de la Cosa map entering image with a few stains.
III. Tomo II[I]. Primera parte – Mamiferos y aves. Paris: Bertrand, 1838. [Section title:] Aves por M. Alcide d’Orbigny. Paris: Bertrand, 1839. The title "Tomo II" has been corrected in ink. For plates, see volume VIII; some leaves lightly browned. Ripoll gives 1845 as the imprint date.
IV. Segunda parte. Historia Natural. Tomo IV. Reptiles y peces. Paris: Bertrand, 1843. For plates, see volume VIII; some leaves lightly browned, light occasional foxing.
V. Segunda parte. Historia Natural. Tomo V. Moluscos [by Alcide d’Orbigny]. Paris: Bertrand, 1845. For plates, see volume VIII; some foxing on a few leaves.
VI. Foraminiferas por Alcides d’Orbigny. Paris: Bertrand, 1840. For plates see vol. VIII; light foxing on a few leaves.
VII. Segunda parte. Historia Natural. Tomo VII. Crustaceos, Aragnides, é Insectos. Paris: Bertrand, 1856. For plates see vol. VIII; small dampstain in outer margin, occasional foxing.
VIII. Segunda parte. Historia Natural. Tomo VIII. Atlas de Zoologia. Paris: Bertrand, 1855. Plates include Mammals 1-5, 7-8 (lacking plate 6), Birds 2-3, 6-9, 11-19, 19 bis, 20, 22, 23, 25-28, 30-32 (lacking plates 1, 4-5, 10, 21, 24, 29), Reptiles 1-30, 29 bis, Fish 1-5, Mollusks 1-4, 4 bis, 5-28 (Ripoll calls for 30 but Nissen counts 29 as here), Foraminiferas 1-12, Paleontologia 1-8, Articulata 1-20; occasional foxing or browning.
IX. Segunda parte. Historia Natural. Tomo IX. Botanica. Paris: Bertrand, 1845. For plates see vol. XII; dampstain in outer margin sometimes touching text, some foxing at beginning and end.
X. Segunda parte. Historia Natural. Tomo X. Botanica. Paris: Bertrand, 1845. For plates see vol. XII; title and some leaves foxed.
XI. Segunda parte. Historia Natural. Tomo XI. Botanica. Paris: Bertrand, 1850. For plates see vol. XII.
XII. Segunda parte. Historia Natural. Tomo XII. Atlas de Botanica. Paris: Bertrand, 1855. Plates include Cryptogamia 1-2 (lacking plates 3-20), Plantae Vasculares 1-12, 12 bis, 13-28, 28 bis, 29-36, 36 bis, 37-38, 38 bis, 39-40, 40 bis, 41-44, 44 (1-3), 45-47, 47 bis, 48-49, 49 bis, 50-54, 54 bis, 55-59, 59 bis, 60-64, 66-89 (=100 plates, lacking two plates).
XIII. Suplemento a la Seccion Economico-politica. Paris: Hachette, 1861.
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