JUSSIEU, ANTOINE LAURENT DE. "Catalogue des Plantes démontrées au Jardin du Roi en l'Année 1781", [Paris, c. 1782].
4to, 208 x 159 mm., contemporary French red morocco gilt, covers with triple gilt fillet border and lotus flower inner cornerpiece ornaments, enclosing inlaid gilt arms of the "COMTE DU NORD" [i.e. alias of PAUL I (1754-1801), EMPEROR OF RUSSIA, AS TSAREVITCH], (vert, a star or, beneath a Count's coronet) on an onlaid red morocco oval, the star within on olive-green morocco oval, within a frame of drawer-handle, dots and another small tool; smooth spine in six compartments, a green gilt-lettered morocco label in one compartment, a repeated gilt flower tool in the rest, board edges with double gilt fillet, turn-ins gilt with a floral roll tool, marbled endpapers, g.e., small abrasion to one spine compartment and small wear to lower corners, the volume in excellent, fresh condition.
MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER, 238 leaves, watermarked with a crowned bird/D & FH, written in a neat scribal hand (a few leaves blank), consisting of a detailed list of plants in their natural orders, with short notes on habitat and flowering, using the conventional, originally alchemical, symbols, at the end 6 pages of explanation and 2 pages "addition au Catalogue des plantes cultivées au Jardin du Roi en 1782."
The great botanist Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu (1748-1836), who succeeded his uncle Bernard de Jussieu as 'demonstrateur de botanique' at the Jardin du Roi, was the author of one of the most important eighteenth-century treatises on plant classification, the Genera Plantarum secundum Ordines naturales disposita (1789), "a thorough summary of current knowledge of plant taxonomy. The genera were arranged in a natural system based upon the correlation of a great number of characteristics, a system which proved to be so well designed that within a few decades it was accepted by all leading European botanists..." (DSB). 76 of the 100 family names used in the Genera Plantarum are in fact still used. Jussieu based much of his work on the plants in the Jardin du Roi, and on his uncle's and his own herbarium as well as on the collections made by Philibert Commerson, the naturalist who accompanied Bougainville on his travels.
The manuscript contains an outline of the taxonomic classification scheme spelled out in the Genera Plantarum, with some variations of arrangement (14 instead of 15 classes). In the final 6 pages the author summarizes the advantages of his classification scheme and discusses the differences in habit arising in different localities. The manuscript was probably written out by one of Jussieu's assistants at the Jardin du Roi.
Provenance: Paul I (1754-1801), Tsar of Russia, son of Catherine the Great, as Tsarevitch. In 1781-82 the young Tsarevitch toured Europe with his second wife Maria Feodorovna, travelling in playful incognito as the "Comte et Comtesse du Nord", a fancy of Catherine's (see lot 76, Jacquin's Selectarum Stirpium Americanarum [Vienna 1780-1781], the author's presentation copy to the "Comtesse du nord"). Catherine had had a seal cut for Paul showing the polar or North star, probably borrowed from the insignia of the Swedish Order of the Polar Star, which appears on the present binding. "Both the binding and its coat of arms are strictly contemporary, though it is clear that the latter was onlaid in a separate operation. Perhaps the binding was originally prepared with the Russian imperial arms, but the stringent demands of incognito protocol enforced a last minute substitution" (Plesch catalogue). Paul is known to have paid a visit to the Jardin du Roi, but as the manuscript does not seem to have ever been in Russia, it is probable that it was left behind. -- Arpad Plesch, book-label (sale, Sotheby's London, 17 November 1975, lot 411) -- Robert de Belder.