SHAW, George (1751-1813) and James Edward SMITH (1759-1828). [Zoology and Botany of New Holland, and the Isles Adjacent. The Zoological Part by George Shaw ... the Botanical Part by James Edward Smith ... the figures by James Sowerby]. London: J. Davis [for] J. Sowerby and Co., [1793-]1794.
Volume I (all published) in four original parts, 4° (310 x 240 mm), comprising:
Part I: 4 hand-coloured engraved plates by Sowerby (verso of plate 1 lightly browned), uncut, pp.1-14.
Part II: 4 hand-coloured engraved plates by Sowerby, uncut, letterpress cancelland half-title, cancelland title, pp.15-24. (Slight offsetting to text leaves and verso of last text leaf browned.)
Part III: 4 hand-coloured engraved plates by Sowerby numbered I, II, V & VI, uncut, pp. [i-]viii (i.e. cancels comprising: half-title, title, dedication & preface), 1-8, 15-18.
Part IV: 4 hand-coloured engraved plates by Sowerby numbered III, IV, VII & VIII, uncut, letterpress cancel half-title, cancel title, pp. 9-14, 19-23. (Small loss to pp.21-22 not affecting text, p.24 soiled.)
Original purple (parts I-II) or blue/grey (part III) paper wrappers, contained in a modern green cloth box, red morocco title label to spine. Parts I & II with small paper letterpress title label to upper covers, part III with letterpress title printed on upper wrappers, part IV stitched without wrappers (horizontal tear to upper wrapper of part III without loss).
THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE ISSUE WITH BOTH CANCELLANDS AND CANCELS OF THIS RARE WORK, THE FIRST TO CONTAIN COLOURED PLATES OF AUSTRALIAN FLORA. The work was originally planned to represent the flora and fauna of Australia, but soon split into two separate publications. The notice 'To the public' printed on the verso of the wrapper to part III (present here) explains how: 'No. 3 will therefore consist of four Botanical plates, with corresponding letter-press, suitably paged, intended to be put in the place of the four Zoological plates and letter-press already given in Nos. 1 and 2. No. 4 will in like manner contain four Zoological plates. Subscribers were meant to return the parts not required, and, With No. 3 will be given a proper title-page and preface to the Botanical part, and with No. 4 the same articles to suit the Zoological part. The title already given must of course be totally cancelled.' The present work thus contains all the original (un-returned) parts. Only four copies of the Zoology have sold at auction in the past 35 years; only one of these, the Willcox copy (Sotheby's Australia, The Willcox Collection of Important Australian Natural History Paintings & Books, 28th November 2000, lot 10, complete with 12 zoology plates and 16 botany plates, fetching A$75,000 hammer) had the combined cancelland title.
The zoological plates include two species of bird that are probably first described in this work: the embroidered merops (Merops phrygius), and the antarctic pigeon (Columba antarctica). A further 4 Zoology plates and text were issued in 1795.
Part III, A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland, includes a dedication to Thomas Wilson, a Fellow of the Linnean Society, who made his collections of original botanical drawings and dried specimens available to Smith and Sowerby. As Smith notes in the preface, Sowerby's plates were engraved from 'coloured drawings, made on the spot, and communicated to Mr. [Thomas] Wilson by John White Esq. Surgeon General to the Colony, along with a most copious and finely-preserved collection of dried specimens, with which the drawings have in every case been carefully compared'. How much of Sowerby's work was from specimens and how much from drawings sent back by Wilson is not known, but some drawings by Thomas Watling (1762-c.1814) at the Natural History Museum [London] can be identified as probably assisting Sowerby in his interpretation of the plants' colour and form (see Helen Hewson, Australia. 300 years of Botanical Illustration, 1999, p. 36). A trained artist, Watling was sentenced to 14 years for forgery and was in Australia from October 1792 until receiving a pardon in 1797 when he left the colony. A further 8 botanical plates with accompanying text were published in 1795.
Zoology: BM(NH) VIII, p.1183 (imperfect); Ferguson I, 196; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.142; Mullens & Swann 53; Nissen ZBI 3838; Whittell 665; Wood p.566 ('this must be an extremely rare work').
Botany: BM(NH) IV, p.1946; Ferguson I, 170; Henrey III, 1356; Nissen BBI 1861; Stafleu & Cowan V, 12.229. (4)