REDOUTÉ, Pierre-Joseph (1759-1840) and Claude Antoine THORY (1759-1827). Les Roses. Paris: Firmin Didot, 1817-1824.
3 volumes, large 2° (553 x 359mm). LARGE-PAPER ISSUE. Half-titles. Engraved portrait of Redouté by C. S. Pradier after Gerard, FLORAL WREATH AND 169 STIPPLE-ENGRAVED PLATES IN TWO STATES, PRINTED IN COLOURS AND FINISHED BY HAND, AND IN BLACK ON OCHRE PAPER, by Langlois, Chapuy and others after Redouté, printed by Rémond. (Occasional very light spotting.) Contemporary English red half morocco gilt, spine with five raised bands, green morocco lettering-pieces, foliate and floral tools in compartments, top edges gilt, the others uncut (extremities slightly rubbed).
THE LARGEST PAPER COPY WITH THE PLATES IN TWO STATES OF THE FIRST EDITION OF REDOUTÉ'S MOST FAMOUS WORK, WITH THE COLOURED PLATES IN THEIR MOST DESIRABLE FORM: 'FINISHED BY REDOUTÉ' (MACPHAIL). Traditionally, the number of copies of the issue in two states is given as fifteen. The publishing history of the work is complex. Lawalrée (Le Livre et l'estampe 61-62: 3-5, 1970) has shown that, in addition to having the plates in two states, the deluxe issue contains textual emendations. In addition, Sitwell and Madol (Album de Redouté. Collins: 1954, item 42) mention that 'the text [is] sometimes printed on coloured paper.' There appear to have been at least two (and possibly three) large-paper issues with the plates in two states: an issue of five copies with the text, as well as the uncoloured plates, on ochre paper, inscribed by Redouté, and numbered 1 to 5. (Brunet [IV.1176] mentions a copy sold in the 'salle Silvestre' in 1841; a copy was sold in these rooms, 28 April 1976, lot 350 (vol.I only of set number 4, inscribed 'Je declare qu'il n'y existe que cinq exemplaires de mes Roses imprimés sur ce papier et avec les figures double, portant les No. 184.108.40.206.5. Redouté') and another copy is in the Rosenwald collection at the Library of Congress (3 volumes, set number 1, inscribed 'Je nay fait tirer que cinq exemplaire de mes Roses sur ce papier et de ce formâ avec les figure en noire et en coleure, dont celui-cy et le nomero premier. Redouté' [sic.]).
The present copy belongs to a large-paper issue, with the text on white paper, and the uncoloured plates on ochre paper. We have identified three other copies of this issue, the Pierpont Morgan Library copy (543 x 355mm) (Ray, French 89); the Garden Center of Greater Cleveland copy (551 x 358mm) (S.H.Johnston, The Cleveland Herbal, Botanical, and Horticultural Collections. Kent, Ohio: 1992, item 807); and the Chatsworth copy (550 x 355mm.) (purchased: these rooms, 19 June 1968).
A possible third issue (on slightly smaller paper) is represented by two copies bought by Quaritch at Sotheby's in the 1920s (24 Jan 1921 lot 246 [505 x 353mm.]; 19 May 1926 [533 x 354mm.]). The uncut size of these copies was probably 539 x 357mm. (cf. Doheny copy, with plates in only one state, Christie's New York, 22 Feb. 1989, lot 2147).
In addition to the large-paper issues, it is clear that the normal small folio issue was also available with the plates in two states: item 19 in A Catalogue of Redoutéana. (Pittsburgh: Hunt Botanical Library, 1963) measuring 350 x 260mm; these rooms, 17 April 1986, lot 329, measuring 355 x 265mm; these rooms, 31 Oct 1985, lot 308, measuring 355 x 260mm.
Redouté's publisher, Bossange, mentions both the large-and small-paper issues in a contemporary advertisment: "M. Bossange père... éditeur et propriétaire des Liliacées et des Roses, peintes par M. Redouté. a fait tirer à part, en noir et en couleur, toutes les figures de ces 2 beaux ouvrages... Ces figures (sont) détachées,...on peut les intercaler dans un herbier naturel...Les personnes qui voudraient se procurer ces ouvrages complets avec le texte, auront la faculté de l'obtenir par souscription, en retirant à la fois que plusieurs livraisons dans l'intervalle d'un ou plusieurs mois...La collection des roses se compose de 30 livraisons; chaque livraison contient six roses imprimées en noir et en couleur, et six feuilles de texte. Prix de chaque livraison in-folio, 50 francs, in-quarto, 30 francs" (transcribed by Henri-Joseph Redouté as being from the Constitutionel, July 1829, into a scrapbook, largely concerning P.J.Redouté's career, now in the Bibliotheque Universitaire Générale Liege (Acc. No. MS W.[ittert] 97)).
The black impressions of the plates initially served a practical purpose: 'It was discovered by English printers that stipple engravings printed most successfully from plates that had been well used. A number of black impressions were run off to take the the sharpness off the plate. Redouté's printers also took some black impressions from plates for both the Liliacées and the Roses.... the black impressions are always printed on paper with a strong ochre-yellow tint... Since black has a much greater force than the delicate colored inks washed with thin watercolor that Redouté normally used, black impressions on reflective white paper would have produced prints with grossly exaggerated tonal contrasts. By using paper devoid of brilliance, he was able to subdue that contrast and produce black prints that enabled the reader to appreciate the purity of his engravers' stipple and roulette technique.' (G.Bridson & D.Wendel. Printmaking in the service of Botany Pittsburgh: Hunt Institute, 1986. no.25).
By 1822, Redouté's extravagant lifestyle and the enormous expense of publishing Les Roses had brought him to the brink of financial disaster. Several noble patrons, mainly female, sought to alleviate his pecuniary embarrassment, and Redouté gave private lessons to aristocratic pupils at the Tuileries, the Royal Palace and at his Paris atelier. Despite official recognition, a number of publishing ventures and the sale of a collection of his drawings to the king, Redouté's financial position remained precarious until his death in 1840.
Les Roses, with its combination of Redouté's plates and Thory's text, remains not only a great artistic achievement, but also a valuable scientific record. Lawalrée describes the text as being "of outstanding importance to both botanists and horticulturalists". Its author, Thory, was an ardent botanist with his own collection of roses, who came to live at an estate neighbouring Redouté's soon after 1814. Their celebration of roses describes many forerunners of today's flowers, and includes details of a number of species and cultivars that have since disappeared. The roses used as specimens for the work were taken from the collections of Thory, the Malmaison gardens, and from other collections around Paris. Many of the flowers were novelties in Redouté's day, and a number were dedicated to his friends and acquaintances, such as L'Héritier de Brutelle and Ventenat.
Stafleu and Cowan 8748; S.H.Johnston, Jr. The Cleveland Herbal, Botanical, and Horticultural Collections (Kent, Ohio: 1992) 807; A. Lawalrée Les Roses facsimile edition, with commentary, Antwerp: Schutter, 1978; I. MacPhail, 'Books Illustrated by Redouté' in G.H.M. Lawrence A catalogue of Redoutéana exhibited at the Hunt Botanical Library, Pittsburgh: 1963; Great Flower Books p. 71; Dunthorne 232; Nissen BBI 1599. (3)