BERLÈSE, Abbé Laurent (1784-1863). Iconographie du Genre Camellia ou Description et Figures des Camellia les plus belles et les plus rares peints d'après nature dans les Serres et sous la direction de M. L'Abbé Berlèse par M.J.-J.Jung. Paris: H.Cousin, [1839-]1841-1843.
3 volumes, 2o (344 x 260 mm). Half-titles, dedication leaf and 4 leaves of text addressed to the Societé Royale d'Horticulture de Paris, 4 leaves of Tables des Matières, 3 leaves (of 5) of Table Alphabétique (one with repaired tear). 300 fine engraved and stipple-engraved plates, partly hand-colored and finished by hand, after Jung by Duménil, Gabriel and Oudet, under the direction of M. Cousin, printed by N. Rémond, with no engraved numbers to plates 1-63, and various misnumberings to subsequent plates (some browning and spotting throughout, occasional mostly minor crazing of colors, some occasional pale offsetting). Contemporary French dark brown quarter morocco gilt, the flat spines with overall decorative design incorporating the title, author and volume numbers (vol. I with portion of spine lacking, other lighter wear at ends of spines). Provenance: J.S. (initials gilt-stamped on spines).
FIRST EDITION OF THE MOST CELEBRATED ILLUSTRATED MONOGRAPH ON THE CAMELLIA. Interest in the genus peaked in the middle part of the nineteenth century, when large numbers of seedlings obtained from crossing variants of camellia Japonica were raised and named, mostly by the Verschaffelt family, nurserymen at Ghent in Belgium, and by the Abbé Berlèse in Paris. Lorenzo Berlese was born in Campo Molino near Treviso, north Italy. He moved to Paris as a chaplain, where by 1817, he was already cultivating camellias. He built up a large collection of plants and by 1837 the general proliferation in hybrid varieties and the confusion over nomenclature made it clear to him that a detailed monograph was required. A subscription of 250 names was raised, and the work was published (after a false start with lithograph plates). In 1846 he sold his collection of plants before returning to Italy.
The arrangement of the text is unusual: the scientific and practical monograph (under various chapter headings: origins, classification, cultivation, etc.) is printed on the lower half of the recto of each text leaf with the description of the facing plate on the upper half. The versos of the text leaves are blank. The success of Berlèse's work is largely due to J.J. Jung's plates, but there is surprisingly little information about the artist. The Abbé thanks him in the introductory letter to the Members of the Paris Royal Society of Horticulture: his drawings have given life and color to the author's technical descriptions which would otherwise have paled in comparison with the real thing. The plates demonstrate the pervasive influence of Redouté, and the Lindley library index notes that he produced some designs for the periodical Herbier général de l'Amateur... but that is all. Nissen BBI 150; Dunthorne 30; Great Flower Books, p.50; cf. Stafleu & Cowan TL2 16.057 (note).