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BONPLAND, Aimé. Description des Plantes Rares Cultivées à Malmaison et à Navarre. Paris: P. Didot l'Ainé, [1812-] 1813 [-1814].

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BONPLAND, Aimé. Description des Plantes Rares Cultivées à Malmaison et à Navarre. Paris: P. Didot l'Ainé, [1812-] 1813 [-1814].

Large 2° (540 x 345mm.). 64 stipple engravings, PRINTED IN COLOUR AND FINISHED BY HAND, including 54 after Redouté and 9 after Pancrace Bessa (1 unsigned), half-title, table of plates. (Some offsetting, browning or spotting to plates and text, repaired marginal tear to pp. 51-52.) Contemporary green straight-grained half morocco, uncut (spine neatly repaired at head and foot, slightly scuffed). Provenance: J. Decaisne, 1807-1822 (signature), author of Le Jardin Fruitier du Muséum (1858-1875) and Traité général de Botanique (with C. Naudin, 1868).

FIRST EDITION of a work that displays to the full Redouté's talents as an illustrator. Like Ventenat's Jardin de la Malmaison (also illustrated by Redouté and published 10 years earlier, when Ventenat was Director of the Malmaison Gardens), the work was commissioned by Joséphine, who had settled at Navarre after her divorce from Napoleon, and commenced the restoration of the extensive gardens there.

Bonpland's friendship with Empress Joséphine began on his return to France after his botanical researches in America, when he presented her with some rare seeds from his voyage. She planted them in the Malmaison conservatories, and Bonpland visited her there almost every week. When, on Ventenat's death, the position of Director of the Gardens fell vacant, Bonpland seemed his natural successor. The Description was intended as a continuation of Ventenat's work, and was the last work executed by Redouté under Joséphine's patronage. Joséphine was barely to see its publication; her death in 1814 marked the end of the great age of Napoleonic book production, when all available technical resources were directed into the recording of new and rare species. Nissen BBI 207; Great Flower Books p.51; Dunthorne 240.
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