HOOKER, Joseph Dalton. Illustrations of Himalayan Plants [chiefly selected from Drawings made for the late J.F. Cathcart Esq. of the Bengal Civil Service]. London: Lovell Reeve, 1855.
2o (500 x 368 mm). Mounted on guards throughout, letterpress title, dedication leaf, 4pp. introduction, explanation leaf, index leaf, list of subscribers, text. Lithographic additional title within an elaborate hand-colored border, 24 hand-colored lithographic plates by (and after) W.H.Fitch, after Hooker, most based on drawings by 'native artists,' printed by Vincent Brooks (few minor chips to edges). Contemporary half morocco (rebacked). Provenance: Massachusetts Horticultural Society (bookplate; stamps).
FIRST EDITION OF "ONE OF THE FINEST FLOWER BOOKS EVER PRODUCED" (Jan Lewis). As Hooker writes in his introduction, he wished the present work to stand as a tribute to, and a record of the services to botany of James F. Cathcart (1802-1851). Cathcart, despite poor health, spent a significant proportion of his life recording the flora of the Himalayas with the aid of "native artists" (he employed up to six working full-time). He was to have provided Hooker with £1000 to pay for "a work similar to the Sikkim-Himalaya Rhododendrons, and to distribute it to the principal botanists and scientific establishments in Europe." He sent ahead nearly 1000 drawings, but unfortunately died of "apoplexy" in Lausanne on his journey back to Britain. The work was eventually financed partly by Cathcart's family, partly by subscription (176 names are listed) and partly by subsequent sales. Most of the plates were re-drawn by Fitch who "corrected the stiffness and want of botanical knowledge displayed by the native artists," in addition Hooker supplied a number of his own drawings of "alpine plants found at greater elevation than Mr. Cathcart was enabled to visit." The results include, according to Patrick Synge (writing in Great Flower Books ) "probably the finest plates of Magnolia campbellii and Meconopsis simpliciifolia ever made." Great Flower Books, p.101; Jan Lewis Walter Hood Fitch: A celebration, 1992,p.16; Nissen BBI 910; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 2973.