18 December 2002
COLONNA, Fabio (1567- ca 1650). Phytobasanos sive plantarum aliquot historia... accessit etiam piscium aliquot, plantarumque novarum historia. Naples: Orazio Salviani for Giovanni Giacomo Carlino & Antonio Pace, 1592.
2 parts in one volume, 4o (201 x 149 mm). Salviani's woodcut device on title, floriated woodcut initials of various sizes, 8 typographic head- and tailpieces. 37 FULL-PAGE ETCHINGS PRINTED WITHIN TYPE-ORNAMENT BORDERS (26 of plants in part I, 11 of plants and fish in part II). (Mostly light dampstaining to lower margin, affecting images, some offsetting to text.) Modern vellum backed boards. Provenance: Massachusetts Horticultural Society, presented by Albert C. Burrage (bookplate, dated 1935).
"THE FIRST STRICTLY BOTANICAL BOOK WITH INTAGLIO PRINTS FROM METAL PLATES" (Blunt & Stearn). Colonna, a member of the Italian nobility and a lawyer by training, suffered from epilepsy and was led to the study of botany after discovering in Dioscorides the sedative properties of Valerian, which reputedly cured him. In his Phytobasanos (Plant touchstone), Colonna set out to improve the descriptions of plants given by Dioscorides and other classical authorities. He is believed to have executed the etchings for the present work himself after drawings taken from the life (the original drawings are preserved in the Bibliotheca Nazionale, Naples). Colonna approached the Disocoridean descriptions with a critical eye, and was in advance of his time in showing details of plant parts decades before their taxonomic importance was recognised. Adams C-2394; Blunt & Stearn 1994 pp.99-100; Mortimer Italian 130; Hunt 165; Nissen BBI 386; Pritzel 1822.
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