London, South Kensington
29 May 2014
MASSON, Francis (1741-1805). Stapeliae Novae: or, A Collection of Several New Species of that Genus; discovered in the interior parts of Africa. London: W. Bulmer & Co. for George Nicol, 1796 [-1797]. 2° (365 x 260mm). 41 hand-coloured engraved plates, using stipple and roulette, by Mackenzie after Masson. (Occasional light soiling and browning.) Contemporary red morocco, gilt borders and cornerpieces, gilt spine, turn-ins and edges (refurbished). Provenance: William Henry Irly (book label).
THE ONLY PUBLISHED WORK BY KEW GARDENS' FIRST OFFICIAL PLANT HUNTER. Masson notes in his introduction: 'I sailed for the Cape [with Cook aboard HMS Resolution] in the beginning of 1772, and remained there two years and a half. ... In the year 1786 I was sent out a second time to the Cape, and remained there near ten years, in which time I had opportunities more minutely to search that great tract of country; the various collections I have sent back from thence to Kew Gardens have been cultivated with ... much success... Two species only of Stapelia were heretofore described by botanists; the genus now promises a numerous harvest of species. In my various journeys through the deserts I have collected about forty, and these I humbly present to the lovers of Botany.' Sir Joseph Banks arranged the publication using his favourite printer W. Bulmer. Indeed, it appears that Banks alone was responsible for seeing that the third and fourth parts were published, as Masson had already set sail again on another plant-collecting trip, this time to the Americas, from which he would not return, dying in Montreal. Great Flower Books (1990) p.118; Henrey III, 1050; Mendelssohn III, p.278; Nissen BBI 1301; Stafleu & Cowan III, 5663.
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