Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.
£6,000 - £8,000
- ($9,948 - $13,264)
11 November 1998
London, King Street
ROBERT HENRY FERNANDO RIPPON (circa 1836-1917)
Icones Ornithopterum: A Monograph of the Papillionine Tribe Troides of Hubner. or Ornithoptera [Bird-Wing Butterflies] of Boisduval. London: R.Morgan for the Author, [1890-]1898-1906[-1910]. 2 volumes, 2 (382 x 278mm). Half-titles. Half-tone portrait of the author, hand-coloured lithographic additional title, uncoloured lithographic decorative final plate ('tail-piece'), 89 lithographic plates only (of 90), including 79 FINE HAND-COLOURED PLATES OF BUTTERFLIES, 13 hand-coloured maps, 1 double-page, 2 maps printed recto and verso of a single leaf, hand-coloured illustrations, 2 mounted uncoloured illustrations, all by Rippon, most printed by M.& N.Hanhart or R.Morgan. (Lacking supplementary plate B from vol.II, an uncoloured plate of butterfly wings.) Modern green half morocco gilt by Trevor Lloyd, original printed paper wrappers from two parts bound in one at the end of each volume.
A FINE COPY OF ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL AND EXTRAORDINARY NATURAL HISTORY WORKS OF THE 20TH-CENTURY. Rippon was born in Essex in about 1836; his passion for natural history developed early and in the 1860s he made a collecting trip to Panama, New Grenada and South America. It was during this period that he developed his talent as a natural history artist. He is not known to have published anything on his journey but did start producing work for other naturalists, including 20 plates of butterflies for Godman and Salvin's Biologia Centrali-Americana.. At his death his huge collection of natural history specimens were eventually sold by his widow, and presented to the Natural History museum. The insects alone numbered 105,760 and included over 21,000 butterflies and 17,000 moths.
In 1890 Rippon began work on the present publication with the "desire to leave behind him some memorial for his life-long love" of natural history. His subject was well chosen as the 'Bird-wings' of the tropics are the most spectacular of all butterflies, with the possible exception of the Morphos family. Limited funds meant that he undertook much of the work himself (he wrote the text, drew, lithographed and hand-coloured the plates, and acted as his own publisher). The work, planned for 20 parts, but published in 25, became his "chief and almost entire occupation" for the next 20 years, and remains, not just a memorial to the genus but also to the art and dogged tenacity of the author. In 1979, Haugum and Low writing in their monograph of the Birdwing butterflies, paid tribute to Rippon and the present work: "his acute perception, and meticulous attention to detail and the elegance of the text, makes his achievement ONE OF THE GREAT ENTOMOLOGICAL WORKS OF THE PAST".
The printing of the text and plates was finished by February 1908, as he wrote to Walter Rothschild "My work is complete at last; but I have not yet supplied all my subscribers. It takes so long to colour all the plates". In March 1914 he was still colouring plates.
The work was sold by subscription, but the number of copies produced cannot be gauged with any accuracy. In June 1890 Rippon wrote to J.O.Westwood "I am steadily increasing the number of subscriber's, which are now over 80", but the final number is unknown and it appears that he was accepting subscribers right up until his death.
The perfect copy of this work is extremely difficult to define: various additions and deletions were apparently made during the course of publication. Rippon himself calls for 111 plates in a letter to Rothschild (28 Feb, 1908), but the 'Explanation of the plates' lists 106 (including title, portrait, maps and plates), and, according to the 'Explanation', this copy does appear to missing one uncoloured plate (see above). From internal evidence the text is complete, but because of the extraordinary nature of the work the present copy is sold not subject to return. Cf. A.H. Kirk-Spriggs Robert Henry Fernando Rippon (ca.1836-1917), naturalist and zoological illustrator pp.97-118 in "Archives of Natural History" (1995) vol.22; Nissen ZBI 3426. (2)
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