Lot 6
  • 6

Ellis, John, John Hunter, and others

5,000 - 7,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • A tract volume comprising four tracts on natural history and medicine, comprising:
  • Paper
ELLIS, John. A description of the mangostan and the bread-fruit: the first, esteemed one of the most delicious; the other, the most useful of all the fruits in the East Indies... to which are added, directions for voyagers, for bringing over these and other vegetable productions, which would be extremely beneficial to the inhabitants of our West India Islands. London: for the author, sold by Edward and Charles Dilly, 1775, FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed "The gift of the author" at head of title-page, 4 engraved plates, [ESTC t31691; Henrey 680; Nissen BBI 589]
HUNTER, John. The natural history of the human teeth. London: for J. Johnson, 1771, FIRST EDITION, 16 engraved plates, [Eimas 968; ESTC t54045], lacking half-title
[BOWEN, Thomas] An historical account of the origin, progress, and present state of Bethlem Hospital, founded by Henry the Eighth, for the cure of lunatics. London, 1783, lithographed frontispiece, [ESTC t36299], frontispiece slightly browned
WHITEHURST, John. An inquiry into the original state and formation of the earth; deduced from facts and the laws of nature. London: for the author, by J. Cooper, and sold by W. Bent, 1778, list of subscribers, 4 engraved plates (2 folding), [ESTC t153455; Norman 2236], small tear in a2 (list of subscribers), plates slightly shaved at foot

together 4 works in one volume, 4to (257 x 200mm.), Hunter bound first, contemporary English half calf over marbled boards, binding somewhat worn, text block splitting

Catalogue Note

FIRST EDITION of Ellis's tract on the mangosteen and the breadfruit. The breadfruit is a native plant of Oceania, which was considered a nutritious and (to the western European) a divinely-supplied alternative to their staple diet of bread. Ellis asserts that it would be a useful crop in the West Indies as a cheap food source for the slave population, which indeed was the purpose of the voyage of the Bounty under William Bligh when it mutinied in 1789. The transfer of breadfruit plants to the West Indies was a plan supported by Joseph Banks who encountered the plants in Tahiti during Captain Cook's expedition; while plants were transplanted with success (and Ellis includes illustrations of the correct equipment for transporting the plants), the West Indian population was less enamoured of this ersatz bread and preferred their usual diet of yams and plantains.

John Hunter's treatise on teeth is considered one of the foundation texts of modern dentistry. The plates were drawn by Jan van Rymsdyk, a Dutch anatomical artist active in London, who worked under Hunter's supervision.

The list of subscribers in Whitehurst's geological tract include Joseph Banks, Erasmus Darwin, Sir William Hamilton, John Hunter and Josiah Wedgwood. "He was the first to establish the succession (limestone, Millstone grit, coal measures) of the Carboniferous strata, and among the first to recognize the volcanic nature of the basalts" (Norman, p. 815).