KER, Charles Henry Bellenden (1785?-1871). Icones pictae Indo-asiaticae Plantarum excerptae plantarum excerptae e codicibus Dom: Cattley. London, 1818.
2o (469 x 329mm). Lithographic title, 1 page advertisement and 30 hand-colored plates [watermarked 1816-1817]. by Ker after Chinese originals (7 etched on copper, 23 lithographed). (Title remargined and with some chipping and splitting to blank margins, light dust soiling to edges, light marginal dampstaining at end, one plate stained.) Later quarter morocco and boards (some wear to joints and edges). Provenance: Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Stickney Fund (bookplate dated 1898; stamps).
FIRST EDITION, WITH THE FIRST ISSUE TITLE-PAGE AND LITHOGRAPHIC ADVERTISEMENT, PRESUMABLY ONE OF ONLY 3 RECORDED COPIES. A FINE WORK INCLUDING ATTRACTIVE PLATES OF CHINESE FLORA. Ker's plates are based on the group of drawings by Chinese artists collected by Andeas Everard van Braam-Houckgeest (see An authentic account of the embassy of the Dutch East-India Company to the court of the Emperor of China, 1798, vol.II, pp. 297-324). The collection then passed to William Cattley (1787-1835) of High Barnet, a merchant and botanically-minded horticulturalist (also an early collector of orchids and one of John Lindley's main patrons), who made the collection available to Ker. Charles Bellenden Ker was the son of John Bellenden Ker (1764-1842) a botanist who was editor of the Botanical Register at the time of the publication of the present work. Charles Ker had been called to the bar in Lincoln's Inn, London, in 1814 and built up a large practice specialising in conveyancing. In later life he became known for his support for both law reform and the popular education, but the present work is his only recorded venture into botanical illustration. Given his father's profession and connections, it seems likely that this work was produced at his father's urging and probably made possible by Ker snr.'s introduction to Cattley.
The first issue is extremely rare (only 3 copies are recorded), being distinguished by this 1818 title-page and presumably 24 plates only. The second edition was issued under a different title (Icones plantarum sponte China nascentium) dated 1821 and had 30 plates. According to Nissen the first issue has only 24 plates, however Stafleu and Cowan, who have not seen a copy, refer to this copy ("a copy is at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society") and a copy of the first issue with 30 plates offered by Junk. The present copy bears watermarks dated only as late as 1817. Later issues have been offered bearing watermarks as late as 1821. Dunthorne 163; Great Flower Books p. 62; Nissen BBI 1030; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 3583.