John Fisk Allen (1785-1865)
Victoria Regia; or the Great Water Lily of America. With a brief account of its discovery and introduction into cultivation: with illustrations by William Sharp, from specimens grown at Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Boston: printed and published for the author by Dutton & Wentworth, 1854. Broadsheet (710 x 560mm). Title dedication to Caleb Cope, 1p. index, plate list, note and errata, 12pp. text (numbered -16). 6 chromolithographic plates by Sharp & Sons of Dorchester, Mass., 5 after William Sharp, one after J.F.Allen. (Neat repaired tears to blank margins of the 3rd and 4th plates.) Modern green morocco-backed boards, titled in gilt on spine, with original green paper upper wrapper with letterpress title bound in.
A FINE COPY OF THIS LARGE SCALE CELEBRATION OF THE FLOWERING OF THE AMAZONIAN WATER LILY, a masterpiece of American chromolithography by William Sharp. This rare work, with plates by the first great American chromolithographer, was produced as a celebration of the flowering of the great water-lily raised by Caleb Cope in Pennsylvania: the first time the plant had flowered in the United States.
When chromolithography was first introduced to England and France around 1835, William Sharp was one of the first to experiment with the process. The first experiments in colour lithography used two stones in the creation of an image, and as the process was refined, an increasing number of colour impressions were utilised. In 1839 Sharp emigrated to America and began work on improving the chromolithographic process. In 1854, the publication of the plates to the present work were completed: to achieve the proper colouration, four separately inked stones were used for each image: the results are amongst the finest chromolithographs ever produced in America.
The Amazonian water lily, "vegetable wonder" had captured the imagination of the Victorians as early as 1837 when the first description and drawings of the plant were sent back to the Royal Geographical Society in London from British Guiana by Sir R.H. Schomburgk, and from an examination of these details, John Lindley detected "characters of sufficient importance to give the plant independent generic rank" and therefore suggested the name Victoria regia, in honour of Queen Victoria during the first year of her reign. There are 3 large folio monographs on this rare plant, the first Lindley's Victoria Regia (London, 1837), containing one plate, and limited to 25 copies. Fourteen years later Hooker collaborated with Fitch to produce Victoria Regia; or, illustrations of the Royal water-lily (London: 1851), including four plates, and produced to record the first flowering of the plant in 1849, at Chatsworth, under the careful supervision of Joseph Paxton. Allen's work celebrates flowering in America. Great Flower Books (1990) p.69; Hofer Bequest 72; Hunt Printmaking in the Service of Botany 56; Nissen BBI 16; Stafleu & Cowan 85.