19 June 2007
SOWERBY, James (1757-1822). Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushrooms. London: J. Davis [vols. I-II] or Wilks [vol. III] for the Author [and others, 1795-] 1797-1803 [-1815].
4 volumes, including Supplement, bound in 3, 2o (317 x 199 mm). Dedication to Sir Joseph Banks and James Edward Smith and 2pp. preface in vol. I, dedication to the Rev. Hugh Davies and 2pp. introduction vol. III 440 hand-colored engraved plates after Sowerby on 436 leaves. (Some occasional light browning or spotting.) 19th-century half morocco (minor rubbing to joints and edges).
FIRST EDITION OF ONE OF THE FINEST WORKS ON MUSHROOMS and fungi with the rare supplement, and one plate apparantly including an original mounted sample of the spore of a 200-year old puff-ball. The supplement was never completed and does not require a separate title page. The copper-engraved plates are printed using a single base color (normally black, but occasionally orange, brown, etc), they are all finished by hand. In his preface Sowerby notes the main uses to which fungi were put and goes on to write that "Some I am persuaded would assist in dyeing. Several of the Sphaerias yield the finest black I ever met with. The Lycoperdons afford in their ripe state different browns very copiously, in a fine impalable powder, fit for immediate drawing when mixed with a little gum arabic water. I intend when I figure some of the Lycoperdons to use their own powder to represent itself". Sowerby goes on to note, in the description for plate 268 "The little circle no.1 in the plate contains the powder or seeds mixed with gum arabic": neather the gum arabic nore the spores are visible. Henrey III.1363; Nissen BBI 1874; Stafleu & Cowan 12.490. (3)
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