BENNETT, John Whitchurch (1808-1843). A Selection of the Most Remarkable and Interesting of the Fishes found on the Coast of Ceylon. London: Edward Bull, 1834. 4 (302 x 234mm). 30 hand-coloured engraved plates, heightened with gum arabic, engraved by J. Clark after John Whitchurch Bennett. (Lacking half-title, variable light browning throughout, library stamps to title and verso of some text leaves.) Contemporary patterned cloth, rebacked and recornered in morocco, contemporary morocco label to upper cover, gilt edges (extremities rubbed, cloth lifting in a few places, upper cover with some soiling, spine lightly faded). Provenance: Ven. Mirisse Pannasiri (loosely inserted receipt, together with a note from the librarian of Vidyalankara University of Ceylon that the book has been library stamped in error) -- G.H. Manley (discreet 20th-century stamp to recto of preliminary leaf).
VARIANT EDITION WITH FIRST ISSUE PLATES. According to Alwynne Wheeler's analysis of various states of this book, the present copy appears to be a slightly later re-issue of the second edition using first edition plates. In the present copy, the second edition title page is present with 'Second edition' appearing within rules and the imprint: 'London: Edward Bull, Holles Street, Cavendish Square. 1834'. Despite the plate imprints being obscured in the gutter, it can be determined that plates 7-10 are 'first editions' with the imprint 'Pub by Longmans & Co, London, 1828'. Plates 11-16, 18, 20, 22 and 24 are 'second editions' with the imprint 'London: published by Edward Bull, 26 Holles Street, 1833'. Plates 28 and 29 have the Bull imprint but omit the date (as usual, see Wheeler, p.52). Plates 3, 11, 14, 16, 23, and 26 are watermarked 'Whatman', but only plates 3 and 11 have a watermarked date of 1836. In other words, the present copy is probably a slightly later re-issue of the second edition using first edition plates.
The text includes descriptive details of each specimen, their scientific and local names (in Singalese) and other relevant information. Bennett in the preface to the 1830 edition describes his 'official duties of the Magistry and other situations which he held in the island.' He goes on to say how the Ceylon Literary and Agricultural Society (established 1820) encouraged him to make his fish drawings, which he drew up for his pleasure, 'more extensively known to the admirers of Natural History', the Governor Sir Edward Baines, giving Bennett 'an advance towards its publication'. Alwynne Wheeler, 'J. W. Bennett's, Fishes of Ceylon' in Archives of Natural History vol. 26 (1999) pp.51-54. Nissen ZBI 316.