James Sowerby (1757-1822)
British Mineralogy: or coloured figures intended to elucidate the mineralogy of Great Britain. London: printed by R.Taylor & Co. [vol.V: by Arding & Merrett], sold by the author [and others], [1802-]1804-1817. 5 volumes, 8° (227 x 140mm). 550 hand-coloured engraved plates. (Occasional light offsetting of text onto plates.) Contemporary panelled calf, covers elaborately tooled in gilt and blind with central lozenge ruled in black, the flat spine divided into six compartments, lettered in gilt in the second and fifth, the others with repeat decoration in blind and gilt, black stained sections at head and foot, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers. Provenance: Craig-Laurie (of Redcastle, armorial bookplate); J.A.Freilich (booklabel, sale: Sotheby's New York, 11 January 2001, lot 497).
A VERY FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION OF 'THE MOST AMBITIOUS COLORPLATE WORK ON MINERALS EVER PUBLISHED' (Conklin), with all the plates drawn and engraved from actual specimens. Sowerby 'was trained as an artist and studied at the Royal Academy of Arts' (DSB), after the successful start to the publication of his English Botany, he began to issue the present work in 1802: 'The undertaking was begun at a time when we had but just become aware how far we were behind in this most essential knowledge, when even the Diamond, one of the oldest jewels in the known world, had but recently been discovered to be pure Carbon' (preface, p.i). Conklin. 'James Sowerby, his Publications and Collections' in The Mineralogical Record 26 (1995),pp.85-105; Lowndes III,p.2463. (5)