BOWDICH, Sarah (1791-1856). The Fresh-water Fishes of Great Britain. Drawn and described by Mrs T. Edward Bowdich. London: Printed by J. Moyes for the authoress and R. Ackermann, 1828[-1836].
11 parts in one volume, 4° (345 x 280mm). Letterpress title, 1p. 'list of subscribers', 2pp. preface, 2pp. of explanatory text for each of the 44 ORIGINAL WATERCOLOURS, over a pencil base, each with manuscript caption and signature in ink, 3 folded, many heightened with gold and silver, 3 small outline pen and ink drawings on a single sheet with accompanying leaf of letterpress description, 1p. letterpress list of subscribers bound in at the end. (9 watercolours with the artists' signature shaved or bound in, 2 watercolours with very light spotting, the watercolour of the 'Shad' slightly shaved into the image.) Contemporary green morocco gilt, covers elaborately panelled in gilt, spine gilt in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second, the others with all-over repeat decoration of stylised flowers and foliage, gilt turn-ins, comb-marbled endpapers, g.e. Provenance: Purchased from Beeleigh Abbey Books, Maldon, in 1986.
ONE OF THE RAREST BOOK ON FISHES, LIMITED TO ABOUT 50 COPIES, AND ONE OF ONLY A HANDFUL OF NATURAL HISTORY WORKS TO BE ILLUSTRATED BY ORIGINAL WATERCOLOURS. Mrs. Bowdich was evidently no mere drawing-room dilettanti when it came to natural history. She was the almost constant travelling companion of her first husband, the African explorer Thomas Edward Bowdich (1791-1824). After his tragic early death in 1824 she completed and published his account of their voyage to Madeira and Africa in 1825, as well as the present work. Mrs Bowdich's Fresh-Water fishes was instigated in the early 1820s by Lord de Tabey and the publisher William Pickering who planned a volume on British Ichthylogy to be edited by Jerdan. A prospectus was issued. The project floundered when Lord Tabey became ill, and the project was handed over to Sarah Bowdich. Mrs. Bowdich notes in her preface that in the interest of verisimilitude she has drawn only from life either at life size or half size, noting the colours of the fish as soon as possible after their removal from the water. In the case of the Trout the rapid fading of its rainbow colours evidently necessitated the services of an expert angler to secure a constant supply of fish, whilst Mrs. Bowdich worked feverishly on the bank. The subscribers' list notes 47 names receiving 50 copies. The work was issued in 11 parts, in 22 installments from 1828 to 1836. Some copies have the three pen and ink drawings on three separate sheets with the letterpress text on pasted-on slips, but in this copy the drawings are on one single sheet, immediately followed by the explanatory text on a second sheet. Of the 50 copies, 20 are recorded in the modern census, however this present copy is unrecorded. Nissen ZBI 157; Westwood and Satchell 39.