Charles Henry Bellenden Ker (1785?-1871)
Icones plantarum sponmte China nascentum; e Bibliotheca Braamiana excerptae. London: J.H. Bohte, 1821 [plates watermarked 1816-1817]. 2° (469 x 329mm). Letterpress title (verso blank) and 1p. introduction in Latin (verso blank). 30 hand-coloured plates by Ker after Chinese originals (7 etched on copper, 23 lithographed). Contemporary green straight-grained morocco gilt, the covers with decorative border in gilt and blind with fillets and two decorative rolls, spine in seven compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second, g.e. (neatly rebacked with old spine laid down).
FIRST EDITION, SECOND ISSUE WITH TITLE DATED 1821. A FINE WORK INCLUDING ATTRACTIVE PLATES OF CHINESE FLORA. Ker's plates are based on the group of drawings by Chinese artists collected by Andeas Everard van Braam-Houckgeest (see An authentic account of the embassy of the Dutch East-India Company to the court of the Emperor of China, 1798, vol.II,pp.297-324). The collection then passed to William Cattley (1787-1835) of High Barnet, a merchant and botanically-minded horticulturalist (also an early collector of orchids and one of John Lindley's main patrons), who made the collection available to Ker. Charles Bellenden Ker was the son of John Bellenden Ker (1764-1842) a botanist who was editor of the Botanical Register at the time of the publication of the present work. Charles Ker had been called to the bar in Lincoln's Inn, London, in 1814 and built up a large practice specialising in conveyancing. In later life he became known for his support for both law reform and the popular education, but the present work is his only recorded venture into botanical illustration. Given his father's profession and connections, it seems likely that this work was produced at his father's urging and probably made possible by Ker snr.'s introduction to Cattley.
The first issue is extremely rare (only 3 copies are recorded) and may be recognised by the variant title Icones pictae Indo-Asiaticae plantarum excerptae e codicibus Dom. Cattley, dated 1818. It included only 24 plates. Dunthorne 163; Great Flower Books (1990) p.107; Nissen BBI 1030; Stafleu & Cowan 3583.