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    Sale 2170

    Important Botanical Books

    24 June 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 8

    ALPINUS, Prosper. De plantis Aegypti liber. Venice: Franciscus de Francisis, 1592.

    Price Realised  


    ALPINUS, Prosper. De plantis Aegypti liber. Venice: Franciscus de Francisis, 1592.

    2 parts in one volume, small 4o (233 x 170mm). 50 woodcut illustrations, including 38 full-page. (Some very minor spotting and a few pale stains.) Contemporary vellum over pasteboard, manuscript title on spine, two chain holes in upper back cover (front free endpaper excised). Provenance: D. di Willhom (early signature at foot of title-page; Chetham Library Manchester (bookplate and ink stamps front pastedown, their sale Christie's London November 26 1980, lot 11).

    FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST WORK ON THE PLANTS OF EGYPT, from Chetham's Library in Manchester, England, the oldest public library in the English-speaking world, founded in 1653. Alpini travelled in Egypt from 1580-83 as physician to Giorgio Emo, the Venetian consul to Cairo. "The pioneer study of Egyptian flora, it introduced exotic plants to the still-parochial European botanical circles... Fifty-seven plants and trees are described, and forty-nine are illustrated. Alpini's medical training led him to approach the new flora in the traditional manner of attempting to correlate these plants with the names and descriptions found in classical sources. When this proved impossible, he described the plant under the local name. The descriptions are based upon specimens that Alpini personally examined, either cultivated in gardens or growing wild. This in itself provided a much -needed corrective to the fables and vague reports associated with Eastern plants. Among the plants previously underscribed in a European botanical text were the coffee brush (Coffe Arabica L.), banana (Musa sp.) and baobab (Adansonia digitata L.)... Alpini observed that the fertilization of the date palm was a sexual process, described the phototropic movements of the leaves of the tamarind, speculated that the tree cotton was the "byssos" of the ancients, and noted the edibility of plants unknown in Europe, such as bammia or okra" (DSB). The second part (De Balsamo) is an account of the source of balsam (Commiphora) which was first printed in 1591. Adams A803; Hunt 164; Nissen BBI 20; Pritzel 111; Wellcome I, 233.

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