HUMBOLDT, FRIEDRICH WILHELM HEINRICH ALEXANDER, Baron von and AIMÈ JACQUES ALEXANDRE BONPLAND. Voyage aux régions equinoctiales du Nouveau Continent, fait en 1799-1804 . . . Sixième Partie, Botanique. Paris: F. Schoell, N. Maze and Gide, - 1808 - 1829 [-1834].
FRANCIS I, EMPEROR OF AUSTRIA'S COPY. 15 vols., ten in large folio, 525 x 335 mm., the last vol. slightly smaller, and nine measuring 482 x 330 mm., contemporary Viennese neo-classical binding, tree calf, richly gilt, sides with acanthus, dots and double-fillet roll enclosing an inner border of palmettes with lyre corner ornaments, spines in six compartments with five raised double bands, red and black morocco labels, most with volume numbers on diagonal green labels, g.e., the last volume quarter bound with matching spine and yellow edges; extremities of some volumes with slight wear, some text leaves spotted.
FIRST EDITION, engraved portrait of Mutis and 1262 plates (896 printed in colors and finished by hand, 220 hand-colored engraved and 145 engraved). The botanical part comprises six sections; the fifth section, Kunth's Synopsis plantarum, 1822-1826, 4 vols., 8vo, unillustrated, is not present in this set. This set comprises:
I. Humboldt and Bonpland. Plantes équinoxiales, recueillies au Mexique, dans l'île de Cuba, dans les provinces de Caracas, de Cumana et de Barcelone, aux Andes de la Nouvelle-Grenade, de Quito et du Pérou, et sur les bords du Rio-Negro, de l'Orénoque et de la rivière des Amazones. F. Schoell, [1805-] 1808-1809 [-1817]. 2 vols., half-titles, 2 titles in French and one in Latin in each volume, 5 leaves of tables, engraved dedicatory portrait frontispiece of Don Jose Celestino Mutis of Bogota and 143 engraved plates by Sellier after Turpin and Poiteau, plate 98 with the "8" supplied. Very minor and occasional spotting, mostly marginal and on text leaves.
II. Humboldt and Bonpland [and L. C. Richard, A. F. C. de Sainte-Hilaire and C. S. Kunth]. Monographie des Melastomacées (and Rhexies). Librairie Grecque-Latine-Allemande and Gide fils. [1806-] 1816-1823 2 vols. Half-titles, 2 titles in French and one in Latin in each volume, the first volume additionally with a Latin section title and its half-title before the preface, 3 leaves of tables, 120 stipple-engraved plates by Bouquet after Poiteau and Turpin, printed in colors and finished by hand.Some minor spotting to text, some offsetting from text to plates and slight darkening of some sheets.
III. Humboldt, Bonpland and C.S. Kunth. Nova genera et species plantarum. Librarie Grecque-Latine-Allemande, N. Maze and Gide fils. 1815-1825. 7 vols. LARGE-PAPER COPY. Half-title and title each in French and Latin in each volume, tables at end of vol. 7, dedication to Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin, 718 engraved plates by Turpin, 717 of plants, one a colored diagram of vegetation zones by altitude on mountains, all but 2 (nos. 3 and 96) colored or partly-colored by hand, including the three cancellands (216, 479 and 480) and bis, a/b or 1/2 nos. 332, 481, 483, 499, 514, 532, 547, 548, 562, 645, 647, 659, 660 and 688. Plate 141 ink-spotted, some occasional foxing and spotting of text leaves, mostly towards fronts of volumes.
IV. Kunth. Mimoses et autres plantes légumineuses du Nouveau Continent. Librairie Grecque-Latine-Allemande. 1819 [-1824]. LARGE-PAPER COPY. Half-title and title each in French and in Latin, dedication to King Frederick-William III of Prussia, 60 stipple-engraved plates after Turpin, printed in colors and finished by hand. Some minor offsetting to plates.
V. Kunth. Revision des graminées publiées dans les Nova Genera et Species Plantarum. Gide fils. 1829 [-1834]. LARGE-PAPER COPY. 3 vols., 2 half-titles in vols. 1 and 2, single half-title in supplement volume, all in French, dedicated to the King of France, 220 hand-colored engraved plates after Eulalie Delile, with analytical details drawn by the author. Plates 26, 29, 43, 47 and 89 spotted, preminaries of Supplement foxed.
A fine and complete set of the Sixième Partie: Botanique of Humboldt's scientific survey of Central and South America, conducted between 1799 and 1804. Humboldt and Bonpland met in Paris in 1798 and originally made plans to explore North Africa. Their passage from Marseilles was delayed and they went to Madrid where Humboldt was encouraged by King Charles IV to direct his energies to South America. The monumental six-part work resulting from Humboldt's voyage was eventually published over a period of approximately twenty-three years in approximately 35 volumes--at fantastic expense; all borne by Humboldt himself. About 50 artists, cartographers, engravers and scientists were employed and publication was spread between eight publishers. Reputedly, the then-existing 3-million franc record set for the cost of a book by the Description de l'Egypte was smashed twice over (Humboldt's 1300 copperplates alone were said to have cost 840,000 francs). The most luxurious format, large-paper, is not recorded by Stafleu for the Mimoses. The complete set, either by subscription or collected by a near-contemporary owner, is a celebrated rarity. Christie's sold the complete copy belonging to Albert Casimir of Sachsen-Techsen in July 1965 and Beriah Botfield's less extensive set (complete to 1825) in 1994. The present majestic Austrian Imperial copy of Botanique is the tulipe noire of a Humboldt set for the botanical book collector.
Brunet III 373-4; Great Flower Books, pp. 50, 51, 63; Nissen BBI 954; Stafleu TL2 3141-3143, 3996, 3999; W. T. Stearn, Humboldt, Bonpland, Kunth and Tropical Botany, 1968.
Provenance: Francis I, Emperor of Austria (1768-1835), ink-stamps on versos of half-titles or titles; also the Fid[ei] C[ommis] stamp; by descent and sold as a duplicate by the National-Bibliothek, Vienna, 15 January 1949 (discreet release stamp at end of each volume) -- Arpad Plesch, bookplate (sale, Sotheby's London, 17 November 1975, lot 377) -- Robert de Belder (sale, Sotheby's London, 27 April 1987, lot 167).