Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2008 Issue

Nine Great American Natural History Books from William Reese

Reeseart15

American Natural History Books with Catesby fish on the cover.


By Michael Stillman

The William Reese Company has issued its Art Bulletin 15, a pamphlet offering nine American Natural History Books. These are all important works, with beautiful color illustrations of the flora and fauna described. All but the first item were published during the 19th century. Here is what is being offered.

1. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands... by Mark Catesby, an edition published in 1771. Reese describes this as "the greatest work of American natural history before Audubon." Catesby was an Englishman who came to America early in the 18th century to conduct his research in the wilderness of the American South. This two-volume set is written in both English and French, and contains 220 hand-colored plates. Priced at $450,000.

2. Forget-Me-Not. Flowers From Nature. With Selected Poetry. This privately published work from 1849 includes poetry from William Cullen Bryant, Mary Howitt and others, but what is most notable are the 18 botanical watercolors by Clarissa Badger. $37,500.

3. Upland Game Birds and Water Fowl of the United States, by Alexander Pope, published in 1878. This is a rare complete folio set of Pope's American game birds. $22,500.

4. A Monograph of the Odontophorimae, or Partridges of America, by John Gould. We all just learned a new word. Gould was a prolific illustrator of birds, surpassing even Audubon. However, he is not as well known in America as he mostly illustrated European, Asian, and Australian birds. This three-part (1844, 1846, 1850) hand-colored work is an exception. $39,500.

5. Vegetable Materia Medica of the United States; or Medical Botany... by William P. C. Barton. Published in two volumes from 1817-1818, it contains 50 plates hand colored by Barton Himself. $12,000.

6. The Americana Flora, or History of Plants and Wild Flowers... by Asa B. Strong. This includes four volumes published from 1848-1850 and contains 190 hand-colored plates. $9,750.

7. The Fruits of America... by Charles M. Hovey, published in two volumes from 1852-1856. This beautiful work on American fruits and fruit trees contains 96 chromolithographed plates. $12,000.

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