Franz Michael Regenfuss (1713-1780)
Auserlesne Schnecken, Muscheln und andre Schaalthiere auf allerhöchsten Befehl Seiner Königlichen Majestät nach den Originalen gemalt, in Kupfer gestochen, und mit natrlichen Farben erleuchtet. Choix de Coquillages et de Crustacés peints d'après nature, gravés en taille-douce et illuminés de leurs vraies couleurs. Copenhagen: Andreas Hartwig Godsiche, 1758. Volume I (all published), broadside (636 x 500mm). Mounted on guards throughout, half-title in French and German, two letterpress titles, one in French, a second in German, parallel text in French and German. Mezzotint portrait frontispiece of Frederic V, King of Denmark and Sweden, printed in sanguine, 12 hand-coloured engraved plates by Regenfuss, mezzotint head- and tailpiece, printed in sanguine and finished by hand. (Eight with ?imprints removed from the lower margin of the plate area, occasional small repaired tears to margins of plates.) Contemporary boards (rebacked and recornered in calf), later cloth solander box. Provenance: Wilbraham Egerton (1781-1856, Tatton Park, Cheshire, armorial bookplate).
FIRST EDITION, SECOND ISSUE OF THE LARGEST AND MOST SUMPTUOUS OF ALL CONCHOLOGICAL WORKS, including images of 145 species "peinte avec la plus grande perfection" (Brunet). Regenfuss, a German painter and engraver, began to contemplate the publication of a book on shells and crustaceans in the 1740s. "He issued an advertisement in 1748 in which the study of shells was greatly recommended and invited subscriptions for his forthcoming book. The text, which had been supplied by Friedrich Christian Lesser... did not satisfy Regenfuss and halted the work temporarily. Through the mediation of the Dane, Count A.G. Moltke, and the King of Denmark and Norway, Frederic V (1723-1766), Regenfuss went to Copenhagen where he was appointed engraver to the King and was able to continue with his book. He produced twelve plates with figures of shells, all of them drawn by himself and coloured mostly by his wife [Margaret Helene]. In 1758, after further setbacks with the text, to which several persons contributed, the book was finally published... [It] was an immediate success, principally... for the superb quality of its plates and, perhaps, for the size of the book itself which has a larger surface area than any conchological work published before or since." (Dance, pp.59-60). Brunet gives a detailed collation of the two issues, and goes on to mention an intended second volume: "On a gravé 12 pl. destinées à un 2e vol., pour lequel O.-F. Mller avait préparé un texte, mais elles n'ont pas été publiées." In an intriguing note the cataloguer of both of the BM(NH) copies records that "the engravings in the text are printed in red (an indication that the copies were royal presentations), the impression in ordinary copies being in blue". The present copy has the head- and tailpiece printed in red and in addition has a distinguished provenance: Wilbraham Egerton's library Tatton Park, near Knutsford.
The removed imprints are another intriguing aspect of this copy. The removal was clearly not carried out recently, and if one assumes that the work was carried out by or for Regenfuss, then there are two possible explanations. First, that Regenfuss wished to make the plates look as much like original watercolours as possible; the second, that he wished to obscure the fact that they were printed in Nuremberg (and perhaps, that they were after originals by another artist). A previous copy sold in these rooms included seven plates with imprints to the effect that the shells depicted were painted from life by Gab. Mller, engraved by Regenfuss, and published by him in Nuremberg with the permission of the Holy Roman Emperor. Regenfuss can be expected to have taken both the existing printing plates and his stock of prints with him when he moved to Copenhagen, and the present copy appears to include a number of these early (Nuremberg) issue plates but with the imprint removed in an effort to obscure the 'foreign' origin of the prints. BM (NH) IV,p.1665; Brunet IV.1180; Dance A History of Shell Collecting p.38; Nissen ZBI 3338.