Lot 11
  • 11


15,000 - 20,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • New Zealand Ferns. 148 Varieties. Auckland, [circa] 1880
FIRST COMPLETE EDITION (see note), 4to (280 x 216mm.), CYANOTYPED THROUGHOUT, 104 numbered illustrations of ferns with scientific captions, upper pastedown with "Index to Genera", lower pastedown with "Fructification and Venation" guide, original black cloth-backed boards with mounted cyanotypes, upper cover with pictorial title, lower cover with a fern (Asplenium Tenuifolia, Samoa), some gatherings misbound, a few tears, binding rubbed


Inscribed in ink at head of first leaf: "Elizabeth Haigh love from Uncle Robert Mitcham, March 1 1881".


J.D. McCraw, The "blue books" of H. B. Dobbie and Eric Craig, New Zealand Journal of Botany, 1989, 27: 347-351

Catalogue Note

A VERY RARE PHOTOBOOK OF FERNS. NO COPY OF THIS OR THE EARLIER SEPARATE ISSUES TRACED IN AUCTION RECORDS. Dobbie produced three versions of his "blue books" of fern illustrations: the first titled "145 varieties of New Zealand Ferns ... In two Parts. Part 1" (Dobbie A) and was issued in 1880 with 48 pages, part 2 was issued in late 1880 or early 1881 with the title "New Zealand Ferns 148 varieties ... in two parts. Part 2" (Dobbie B), the third version (present here) brings all the fern illustrations together in a single volume (Dobbie C). A few years later Dobbie sold the plates for this book to Eric Craig in Auckland who re-issued the books in c.1888 and c.1892. A census of copies in 1989 by McCraw lists only 14 copies of Dobbie and Craig's books, and although a few more have since been located, the number remains under 20 (including Craig's re-issues). A copy of this book was exhibited recently in the New York Public Library exhibition on photographic pioneer Anna Atkins with the following note: "The cyanotype was introduced in New Zealand not long before 1880, when Herbert Dobbie found himself looking for a way to generate extra income. Dobbie would have been familiar with the process, given his job in the drawing office of the New Zealand Government Railways. A notable feature of Dobbie's book is that both sides of the sheet were cyanotyped - a technical feat perhaps made easier by the fact that he mounted his ferns on large glass sheets, allowing him to print four pages at once."

McCraw in his 1989 census of Dobbie's "blue books" records only 14 copies, including the later re-issues by Craig. These include one copy each of Dobbie A and B, and 7 copies of Dobbie C in collections. Three more copies have since been located: Te Papa Museum of New Zealand has a copy of A, and UC (Berkeley) has a copy of C, and the later 172 Varieties published by Craig.