CANDOLLE, Augustin Pyramus de (1778-1841). Plantarum Succulentarum Historia. Ou Histoire naturelle des plantes grasses. Avec figures dessinées par P.J. Redouté, et décrites par A.P. Décandolle. Paris: Pierre Didot l'Ainé, 1790 [but 1799-1804 or later].
2 volumes, 2° (516 x 318mm). Letterpress titles. 164 stipple-engraved plates only, printed in colours and finished by hand, after P.-J.Redouté and Henri-Joseph Redouté. (Titles about 25mm shorter, along the lower margin, than the body of the book, light spotting to title of vol.I, some light dust-soiling to lower blank margins of about six text leaves, small marginal tears to lower margins of about 11 plates, without preface, half-titles, leaves 31, 141, 160 onwards, or indices.) Contemporary green staight-grained half morocco, spines gilt in six compartments with false raised bands, lettered in the second and fourth, the raised bands decorated with four horizontal fillets and small arabesque tools, gilt edges (some light scuffing).
LARGE PAPER ISSUE OF REDOUTé'S FIRST MAJOR WORK AS AN ILLUSTRATOR. It was also the first major botanical work to rely on colour-printed plates using techniques refined by Redouté, and the last publishing enterprise stimulated by C.-L. l'Hériter de Brutelle. Whilst Redouté began work on the drawings on vellum, R.-L. Desfontaines 'found a young Swiss botanist, Augustin-Pyramus de Candolle, then a student at the garden, ready to undertake the task of writing the descriptions of each species ... Out of this collaboration ... developed the now famous Plantarum historia succulentum, perhaps better known by its French title Plantes grasses ... The original folio edition was struck off in 100 copies ... The number of copies printed for the quarto and for other later editions is not known' (Stafleu in Hunt Redouteana pp.15-16). The original edition was published in fascicles: the first 28 (containing 180 plates) between 1799 and 1805, when an argument between de Candolle and the publisher halted publication. The work was resumed through the interest of the botanist J.-B.-.A. Guillemin (1796-1862), who issued, in quarto edition, another three fascicles (nos 29-31, with a further 19 plates). A thirty-second fascicle of five plates remains unpublished.
A date cannot be assigned to the present issue. Stafleu & Cowan wrote that the work was 'one of the nightmares of botanical bibliography' and went on to say that 'Several editions are known to have been distributed, but new title-pages, partial indexes and new covers were issued at different times either with existing stock or with later reprints... There are hardly any identical copies. Very often plates are lacking, but... a huge number of "variants" exist'. The present set includes an obviously spurious date on titles which appear, from the syle of the typography, to have been printed in the 1820s. Dunthorne 241; Great Flower Books p.53; Hunt Redouteana 6; Nissen BBI 321; Stafleu and Cowan 983. (2)