14 November 2007
MILLER, John (1715-1780). Illustratio Systematis Sexualis Linnaei ... An Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus. London: by the Author, -77.
2 volumes in 3, 2° (530 x 360 mm). Engraved frontispiece, 3 engraved titles, preface leaf with list of 83 subscribers on verso, first volume with 108 hand-coloured engraved plates by Miller, second volume with 104 engraved plates plain and before letters; third volume with the Latin and English text. (Small repaired tear to one title, frontispiece slightly stained in one corner.) Contemporary mottled calf gilt (neatly rebacked). Provenance: F.W. Headland (ownership signature).
A FINE COPY WITH THE PLATES IN TWO STATES, with large margins and with 3 engraved titles, instead of the usual 2. "An immense work of botany wherein the pencil of Miller illustrated, in a style of unprecedented elegance, the sexual system of Linnaeus" (J.C. Lettson, Memoirs of John Fothergill, p.106).
Johann Sebastian Mueller (1715-c.1790) was a Nuremberg artist who changed his name to Miller on arrival in London. The botanical aspects of the plates were overseen initially by Gowan Knight (1713-1772), the first Principal Librarian of the British Museum and a friend of Fothergill's. The plates were issued both coloured and uncoloured, the latter, for scientific purposes, were published with letters, the former for aesthetic reasons were published without. The work appeared in twenty parts from 1770 to 1777 and was sold to 85 subscribers (who ordered 105 sets). Linnaeus himself was sent samples of the work for his approval and responded enthusiastically, considering it "more beautiful and more accurate than any that had been seen since the world began". Blunt p. 150; Nissen BBI 1372; Dunthorne 207; Henrey 1153. (3)
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