BONPLAND, Aimé. Description des Plantes Rares Cultivées à Malmaison et à Navarre. Paris: P. Didot l'Ainé, [1812-] 1813 [-1814].
2° (506 x 334 mm). Half-title, 64 stipple engraved plates printed in color and finished by hand, including 54 after Redouté and 9 after Pancrace Bessa (with one plate unsigned). (Imprints and plate numbers shaved or trimmed away, not affecting plate titles, some pale spotting, pale stain at foot of last few leaves.) Contemporary tan diced russia gilt, turn-ins gilt, spine in 7 compartments with 6 raised bands, green morocco lettering-pieces gilt, the rest in gilt and blind, edges gilt (rehanged, corners renewed, some light wear). Provenance: Alexander Schippan (bookplate on lower pastedown).
FIRST EDITION of a work that displays Redouté's full talents as an illustrator, Vol. I only (all published). 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.