COLONNA, FABIO. [Greek:] Phytobasanos sive plantarum aliquot historia... accessit etiam piscium aliquot, plantarúmque novarum historia. Naples: Giovanni Giacomo Carlino & Antonio Pace, 1592.
4to, 195 x 144 mm., 17th-century vellum over pasteboards, head of spine repaired, tail of spine torn, lower cover patched, upper inner hinge split, lower 2 flyleaves with ms. notes detached, light dampstaining to upper inner margins, lower blank corner of O1 torn away.
FIRST EDITION. 2 parts in one, roman, italic and Greek types, small woodcut pilgrim device of the printer Orazio Salviani on title, 37 full-page etchings, 26 of plants in part 1, 11 of plants and fish in part 2, set within type ornament borders, floriated woodcut initials in various sizes, 8 typographic head- and tail-pieces.
ONE OF THE EARLIEST BOOKS WITH INTAGLIO ILLUSTRATIONS OF PLANTS. Colonna, a member of the Italian nobility and a lawyer by training, suffered from epilepsy, and was led to the study of botany after discovering in Dioscorides the sedative properties of valerian, which reputedly cured him. In his "Plant Touchstone", Colonna set out to improve the descriptions of plants given by Dioscorides and other classical authorities. He is believed to have executed the etchings himself after drawings from actual specimens (the original drawings are preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Naples). Colonna approached the Dioscoridean descriptions with a critical eye, and was in advance of his time in showing details of plant parts decades before their taxonomic importance was recognized.
The etchings in the only other copy of this rare edition to have sold at auction in recent years, the Schäfer copy (Sotheby's, New York, 8 December 1994, lot 61) were printed in a reddish-brown ink. The plates in this copy are printed in black ink.
Adams C-2394; Blunt and Stearn, pp. 99-101; Harvard/Mortimer Italian 130; Hunt 165; Nissen BBI 386; Pritzel 1822.
Provenance: Dumolin, l'âiné, 18th-century inscription on front flyleaf; three manuscript pages at end probably in the same hand, listing in parallel columns the Linnean equivalents for all the plants described by Colonna -- Kenneth K. Mackenzie; Horticultural Society of New York, bookplate.