SAY, Thomas (1787-1834). American Entomology, or descriptions of the insects of North America. Illustrated by coloured figures from drawings executed from nature. Philadelphia: W. Brown for Mitchell & Ames, 1817.
8° (245 x 142mm). Collation: [A]-C4, D2 (title [verso blank], pp.[iii-]x Preface; pp. [1-17] text; pp. blank). Uncut. Engraved additional title by Kneass, Young & Co. after Charles Alexander Lesueur, 6 hand-coloured engraved plates, all unnumbered and with no engraver's or artist's names. (Additional title spotted, light browning and offsetting to plates.) Modern brown calf, titled in gilt on spine. Provenance: Edward C. Herrick (inscription on title dated 'Nov. 16. 1835').
VERY RARE TRIAL ISSUE/PROSPECTUS OF SAY'S MOST IMPORTANT WORK ON ENTOMOLOGY. Bennett notes that this work is 'virtually unknown' and that he had only been able to find the 'Library of the American Natural History Museum' copy: 'the compilor has not located another copy, though he assumes such a thing must exist'. Bennett American Nineteenth Century Color Plate Books p.94; BM(NH) IV,p.1817; Nissen ZBI 3612.
Thomas Say 'the father of descriptive entomology in America', was born in Philadelphia. His schooling was not broad, but his interest in natural history was fired early by his great-uncle William Bartram, and in 1812 he was one of the founder members of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. By 1816 the plans for his great work were under way and the present experimental issue appeared the following year. He did not follow up this initial publication immediately: in 1818 he went to Georgia and Florida with George Ord, William Maclure and Titian R. Peale (all fellow members of the Philadelphia Academy). In 1819 he was appointed zoologist to Stephen Long's expedition to the Rocky Mountains and in 1823 he again accompanied Long - this time to explore the sources of the Minnesota River. The value of this practical work was recognized and he was appointed curator of the American Philosphical Society in 1821 and professor of Natural History at the University of Pennsylvania in 1822. All this meant that he did not return to the publication of his American Entomology until 1824.
Thomas SAY. American Entomology, or descriptions of the insects of North America. Illustrated by coloured figures from original drawings executed from nature. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum, published by Samuel Augustus Mitchell, for sale by Anthony Finley, printed by William Brown, 1824-1825-1828. 3 volumes. Engraved additional title after Charles A. Lesueur, 54 hand-coloured engraved plates by C. Tiebout, G. Lang, Longacre and others, after Titian R. Peale, W.W. Wood, Charles A. Lesueur, H. Bridport, C. Tiebout and others. (Plates 23, 29 and 39 spotted.) [Bound with:] [Thomas SAY.] Explanation of Terms used in Entomology [N.p.: n.d but ?1825]. Collation: [A-]D4, E1-3 (lacking E4 [final blank]). Title (verso blank), pp.[2-]37 text, p.38 blank. 2 works in four volumes bound in one volume, 8° (232 x 143mm). 20th-century green morocco, spine in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in gilt in the second and third. Provenance: Quebec Literary & Historical Society (occasional small early ink stamps to titles and text leaves).
FIRST EDITION BOUND WITH SAY'S GLOSSARY. The frontispiece and plates from the trial issue are here re-issued (but with re-written text): the frontispiece has had the engraver's name removed, and the six plates have had numbers added (nos.1, 4, 7, 10, 14 and 18). Volumes I and II and the 'Glossary' were all issued over a relatively short time in 1824 and 1825 while Say was based in Philadelphia. However, in 1825, in company with William Maclure, Lesueur, Robert Owen and others, Say moved to Indiana, where Owen had bought the village of New Harmony, intending to found a Utopian community. The experiment was not a success but it was to remain Say's home for the rest of his life. The publication of the third volume of the Entomology was further delayed by Say's journey to New Orleans and Mexico in late 1827, but it was eventually completed in 1828. Say's health, never strong and further weakened by his frugal diet, finally gave way and he died on 10 October 1834. Bennett p.95; BM(NH) IV,p.1817; cf. Nissen ZBI 3612; together with seven volumes containing Entomological works by Say (The Complete Writings of Thomas Say on the entomology of North America. edited by John L. Le Conte... with a memoir of the author, by George Ord. New York, London: 1859. 2 vols., 8°, contemporary red half calf. Provenance: Frederick du Cane Godman; [The Complete Writings. New York, London, etc.: 1859]. Part work in one original part only, 8°. Wrappers; and four volumes each containing work by Say extracted from various scientific publications). (9)