21 September 2005
JOHN WILLIAM LEWIN (1770-1819)
Prodromus Entomology. Natural History of Lepidopterous Insects of New South Wales. London: for the author by Thomas Lewin, printed by T. Bensley, 1805. 2° (364 x 257mm). 18 plates drawn, engraved and hand-coloured by the author. Interleaved. (Light spotting on plate 10, pink staining on interleaves.) Contemporary speckled calf with gilt border, red morocco spine label, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers (joints cracked, lower cover loosening, upper cover scuffed at border).
FINE COPY OF THIS RARE WORK. ONE OF '40 COPIES ... TAKEN OFF ON IMPERIAL PAPER' and published at £2-5-6, the most expensive of four states. The 18 plates were drawn and engraved by John Lewin, the son of William Lewin, author of The Birds of Great Britain, in New South Wales. The earliest copper-plates to be executed in the colony, they were already on their way back to England in 1804, where John's brother, Thomas, supervised their publication and contributed a preface. If the aim of the publication was to provide the author 'with the means of returning to England,' as the preface claims, it was a failure. But, as the first of two rare natural history books by Australia's first professional artist, its importance is outstanding. ABPC records only two copies of the first edition selling at auction in thirty years. A second edition appeared in 1822. Ferguson 411; Nissen ZBI 2487.
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