ALLEN, John Fisk (1785-1865). Victoria Regia; or the Great Water Lily of America. With a brief account of its discovery and introduction into cultivation: with illustrations by William Sharp, from specimens grown at Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Boston: printed and published for the author by Dutton & Wentworth, 1854.
Broadsheets (690 x 550 mm). Letterpress title, dedication to Caleb Cope, 12pp. text (numbered -16), one-page index, plate list, note and errata. 6 chromolithographic plates by Sharp & Sons of Dorchester, Mass., 5 after William Sharp, one after J.F.Allen. (Some minor mostly marginal staining, short marginal tear to last plate.) Original cloth-backed green paper over boards, with letterpress title on front cover (some wear to spine and rubbing and staining edges). Provenance: Taylor Library (bookplate); acquired from Goodspeed's Book Shop, 1976.
FIRST EDITION OF THIS LARGE SCALE CELEBRATION OF THE FLOWERING OF THE AMAZONIAN WATER LILY, a masterpiece of American chromolithography by William Sharp: "In the large water lily plates of Victoria Regia, Sharp printed colors with a delicacy of execution and technical brilliance never before achieved in the United States" (Reese). This rare work, with plates by the first great American chromolithographer, was produced as a celebration of the flowering of the great water-lily in America.
When chromolithography was first introduced to England and France around 1835, William Sharp was one of the first to experiment with the process. The first experiments in color lithography used two stones in the creation of an image, and as the process was refined, an increasing number of color impressions were utilised. In 1839 Sharp emigrated to America and began work on improving the chromolithographic process. In 1854, the publication of the plates to the present work were completed: to achieve the proper coloration, four separately inked stones were used for each image: the results are amongst the finest chromolithographs ever produced in America. Great Flower Books (1990) p.69; Hofer Bequest 72; Hunt Printmaking in the Service of Botany 56; Nissen BBI 16; Stafleu & Cowan 85; Oak Spring Flora 106; Bennett, p.2; Princeton, American Graphic Arts p.147; McGrath, pp.119-20; Bettina A. Norton, "William Sharp: Accomplished Lithographer" in Art & Commerce: American Prints of the Nineteenth Century (Charlottesville, 1978); Reese Stamped with a National Character 19.