DECAISNE, Joseph (1807-1882). Le Jardin Fruitier du Muséum ou iconographie de toutes les espèces et variétés d'arbres fruitiers. Paris: Firmin Didot frères, [1858-]1862-1875.
9 volumes, small 2o (295 x 208 mm). Half-titles. 506 plates (of 508) after Alfred Riocreux, including one uncolored engraving and 505 lithographs, 492 with fruit subjects printed in color and finished by hand, backgrounds plain, 4 of these double-page (occasional minor pale spotting). Nineteenth-century red half morocco, marbled boards, spines gilt, top edges gilt, by F.P. Hathaway, Boston, gilt-stamped "M.H.S." on spines (some light edgewear). Provenance: Massachusetts Horticultural Society (bookplates; bindings; stamps).
FIRST AND ONLY EDITION OF THIS FINE POMOLOGY: one of the greatest of all fruit books. The work was originally issued in fascicles and general title-pages were later issued (as here) for the nine volumes. The life-size plates are by the "most sensitive and skilful French botanical artist of the period... the Paris counterpart of Walter Hood Fitch" (Blunt). Bunyard calls the work "magnificent" and writes that it is impossible to speak too highly of the coloring and goes on to say that "the lithographs are magnificent, and no pomological work has ever approached them for correctness of colouring." The author, a Belgian who had been appointed to the Natural History Museum of Paris in 1850, sets out to describe all the species and varieties of fruit growing in the museum's garden. The work is presented in sections each covering a single species of fruit. The first (and largest) section is on the Pear, or what the author calls the "roi des fruits à pepins." This section, spread over the first six volumes, includes 357 plates. The remaining sections are, in vol.VII, Peaches (74 plates); in vol.VIII: Nectarines (13 plates); Plums (12 plates); Apricots (1 plate); and in vol.IX: Strawberries (40 plates, four of which are double-page) and Currents and Gooseberries (11 plates). The plates illustrate individual varieties with their fruit and portions of the foliage often in color, and each is accompanied by at least 2pp. of descriptive text.
The artist, Alfred Riocreux (1820-1912) "was born at Sèvres, near Paris, where his father, who had been formerly employed in the state porcelain factory, was curator of the Musée de Céramique. Trained by his father, the boy progressed so rapidly with drawing and painting that the sketches which he made at the age of thirteen were considered worth preserving at Sèvres. The botanist Adolphe Théodore Brongniart (1801-76), whose father had also been employed at Sèvres, directed the attention of young Riocreux to botany and was probably also responsible for bringing him to the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle. Here the young artist met Joseph Descaisne..." (Blunt, The Art of Botanical Illustration, , p.270). The plates amply demonstrate Riocreux's ability to produce botanically accurate plates presented with an instinctive aesthetic awareness of what would constitute a pleasing and beautiful design. E.A. Bunyard, "Guide to the Literature of Pomology" in Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, 1915, p.428; Great Flower Books (1990), p.89; Nissen BBI 456; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 1338. (9)