L'HÉRITIER DE BRUTELLE, CHARLES-LOUIS. Stirpes novae, aut minus cognitae quas descriptionibus et iconibus illustravit. Paris: Philippe-Denis Pierres, 1784-[-1791].
2 vols., large folio, 560 x 421 mm., late eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century russia richly gilt, BOUND FOR GEORGE SPENCER, FOURTH DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH, his arms as Marquis of Blandford at center of covers, within broad outer key tool gilt border, inner panel tooled in gilt with floral roll-tools in blind, large floral tools at corners, spine in seven compartments, gilt and gilt-lettered, Spencer's crest in the uppermost compartment, turn-ins gilt, g.e., joints and extremities slightly rubbed, slight chipping to head and tail of spines, upper inner hinge of vol. 2 cracked, occasional light spotting to text and to borders of plates, affecting 4 uncolored and 4 colored plates, pl. 33 (colored) with very small light horizontal crease intrinsic to paper, slight oxidisation to upper blank margin of plate 38 (colored), not affecting image, very small stain or mark to upper blank corner of plate 43 (within platemark), slight staining and spotting to pl. 81, slight uniform discoloration to 20 or so of the uncolored plates and some text leaves in vol. 2, uncolored oblong plate 84 formerly folded and with traces of glue from old mount on verso, and one very small hole.
LARGE-PAPER COPY OF THE de luxe ISSUE WITH THE PLATES IN TWO STATES, PLAIN AND HAND-COLORED, A UNIQUE COPY CONTAINING FOUR ORIGINAL WATERCOLORS BY HENRI-JOSEPH REDOUTé. 6 fascicles in 2 volumes, each with its own letterpress title-page, 91 engraved plates, of which 54 after PIERRE-JOSEPH REDOUTé, the remainder after Louis Fréret (25), J. G. Bruguière (2), James Sowerby (1) and others, the plates printed on wove paper, all except XXXbis (as usual) present in two states, one uncolored and the other color-printed and hand-colored, the very fine coloring executed by both Redouté brothers, the colored plates with liquid gold borders and captions in gold, and with 4 original watercolors, each signed "henr. jos. Redouté", replacing the colored versions of the plates originally issued, these plates being XVI, Aristotelia macqui, by Fossier, XX, Parietaria arborea, by Fossier, XXIII, Ehretia halmifolia, by Fréret, and XXIV, Ehretia internodis, by Jossigny.
L'Héritier de Brutelle's magnum opus is "one of the more delightful flower books of the eighteenth century... splendid in its spacious descriptions, its charming exotic plates, its implications for taxonomic history; and fascinating as an imposing piece of eighteenth-century bookmaking, with its series of fascicles printed on broadsheets..." (Hunt). The substitution in this special copy of four fine watercolors by Henri-Joseph Redouté for the plates by lesser artists is probably due to the author's dissatisfaction with these plates, which all occur in the 2nd and 3rd fascicles, both published in 1786 (the titles are misdated), and which may have been produced before L'Héritier had put Pierre-Joseph Redouté in charge of the production and printing of the plates (the Stirpes novae was Redouté's first botanical publication). The watercolors are very different and far superior renderings of the same plants depicted in the corresponding engravings. Documents published by André Lawalrée in the Hunt Catalogue of Redoutéana (1963) show that the coloring of the plates was carried out in P.-J. Redouté's studio, with the collaboration of his brother, and that at least some of the colored copies were colored well after publication of the work had been completed (cf. Buchheim, Huntia 2, p. 51). Three more fascicles containing a further 39 plates were issued after August 1805, but these plates appear in only very few copies.
Henri-Joseph Redouté, whose great talent is evidenced by these fine watercolors, has been naturally somewhat overshadowed by his brother. He went on to illustrate the botanical section of the Description de l'Égypte and became a distinguished zoological artist for the Jardin des Plantes.
In his exhaustive study of the printing and publication of the work, Günther Buchheim traced only four copies of the issue with both plain and colored plates, including the present copy, the three others being the Bibliothèque nationale, Lindley Library, and Teyler's Stichting (Haarlem) copies. He apparently failed, however, to notice the watercolors in the present copy.
G. Buchheim, "A bibliographical account of L'Héritier's 'Stirpes novae", in Huntia, vol. 2, 15 October 1965, pp. 29-58; Dunthorne 246; Great Flower Books, p. 65; Hunt 673; MacPhail 1; Nissen BBI 1190; Pritzel 5268; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 4484.
Provenance: George Spencer, Fourth Duke of Marlborough (1739-1817), supra-libros (sale, Evans, 1819, lot 2160, for 17 guineas) -- Frederick Justen, F. L. S., presented to the Linnean Society in 1904 (sale, Sotheby's London, 2 July, 1979, lot 93) -- Robert de Belder (sale, Sotheby's London, 27 April 1987, lot 215).