BENNETT, John Whitchurch (1808-43). Manuscript album with original watercolours, with booksellers note on first leaf "Bennett (J.W.) - The Fishes of the Island of Ceylon. Point de Galle. 1825. the original coloured drawings from the Life, 30. in number. With MS. Descriptions. Unique." [Ceylon:] Text leaves dated 5th January 1825 to 17th January 183.
2° (384 x 274mm). Mounted on guards throughout. 30 leaves of descriptive text in manuscript (versos only), interleaved with 30 thin card leaves, each with an original watercolour drawing, cut out and mounted. (A few margins very slightly shaved with loss of numbers.) Purple straight-grained morocco gilt, covers elaborately panelled in gilt and blind, with central lozenge with flower-head cornerpieces, spine in six compartments with wide raised bands, lettered in the second, M.S./BENNETTS FISHES OF CEYLON, tooled in gilt on the bands, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers (slight fading to spine).
THE EARLIEST ACCOUNT OF THE MARINE FISH OF SRI LANKA, AN IMPORTANT UNRECORDED ALBUM, INCLUDING THE TEXT AND ORIGINAL ARTWORK TO BENNETT'S A Selection from the most remarkable and interesting... Fishes found on the coast of Ceylon, published in London in 1830. The text includes descriptive details of each specimen, their scientific and local names (in Singalese) and other relevant information. Each watercolour drawing is carefully cut out round the outline of the fish and mounted onto card giving a uniformity of presentation. Many of the drawings make use of metallic varnishes to give a more perfect imitation of the dramatic colours of the live fish. Bennett in the preface to the 1830 edition describes his 'official duties of the Magistry and other situations which he held in the island.' He goes on to say how the Ceylon Literary and Agricultural Society (established 1820) encouraged him to make his fish drawings, which he drew up for his pleasure, 'more extensively known to the admirers of Natural History', the Governor Sir Edward Baines, giving Bennett 'an advance towards its publication'. The 1830 edition was issued in 6 parts from May 1828 to April 1830, this album following the exact order of the published work, the text in Bennett's fair hand according with the published form with some minor additions or alterations to a few descriptions. The engravings faithfully reproduce the colouring and form of these drawings, a few reduced in size to fit the 4to format. Alwynne Wheeler, 'J. W. Bennetts, Fishes of Ceylon' in Archives of Natural History vol. 26 (1999) pp.51-54.