LEE, James (1715-1795). Coloured Specimens, to illustrate the Natural History of Butterflies. From the Collection of Mr. Lee, of Hammersmith. London: Savage and Easingwood for William Miller, 1806.
2° (362 x 259mm). Collation: pp.[i] (title) [ii] (blank) [iii]-vii (introduction) [viii] (blank) - text. 20 hand-coloured etched plates, heightened with gum arabic and titled in pencil, mounted on cream paper within double-ruled sepia borders. (Scattered spotting, particularly heavy on one text leaf.) Contemporary straight-grained morocco, the covers with broad borders of gilt and blind rolls, Botfield's arms in gilt, board edges and turn-ins gilt, the spine gilt in compartments, lettered in gilt in two, the other decorated in blind, gilt edges (bookplate neatly removed from upper pastedown, spine darkened, extremities lightly rubbed).
ONE OF FIFTY COPIES OF THIS RARE WORK. The introduction states that 'The object of this work is to give accurate and highly finished delineations of the Genus Papilio, according to the system of Linnaeus. The specimens are all coloured by the same person, who made the drawings from the original specimens, and consequently the number of copies, that comes before the Public, will be very limited; they cannot exceed fifty. So that besides the decided superiority of the work (it is presumed) over all others in beauty and fidelity, it will be almost as scarce and valuable as drawings (which indeed they all are, with the exception of an etched outline) and will not hereafter be able to be procured' (p.[iii]). The specimens are taken from the extensive collections of the accomplished natural historian James Lee, proprietor of the Vineyard Nursery, Hammersmith. Lee is said to have trained under Philip Miller at Chelsea, and became a friend and correspondent of such eminent natural historians as Thornton, Banks, Redouté, Michaux and Linnaeus. Of these, perhaps the greatest influence was Linnaeus (who named a genus of tropical plants Leea for him); Lee's daughter Ann (1751-1790) supplied Linnaeus with skilful drawings of specimens from the nursery, and Lee's Introduction to Botany: extracted from the works of Linnaeus (London: 1760), was the first translation of Linnaeus's work into English. Brunet III, 921; Lowndes p.1331.