5 vols, bound as one with separate atlas, 4to, pp. I: xii, 40, II: xii, 44, III: xii, 44, IV: xii, 40, V: viii, 38, [ix]-x, Atlas: pll. 125; printed on heavy blue-grey paper, copper-engraved plates signed ‘Capieux’ and coloured by hand, watermarks ‘I G Ebart’ and ‘Spechthausen’; light toning and occasional spots, but a very attractive set in late nineteenth-century French green morocco-backed boards with pseudo-marble sides, spines in compartments between raised bands, lettered directly in gilt, marbled endpapers; gilt red morocco bookplate of Arpad Plesch to upper pastedown of text volume (see below).
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Choix de plantes d’Europe, décrites et dessinées d’après nature … tome I, avec 25 planches [– tome II, avec 25 planches; – tome III, avec 25 planches; – tome IV, avec 25 planches; – tome V, avec 25 planches].
First edition in French, the Plesch set, with 125 handsomely hand-coloured botanical plates, adapted from the German edition finished the previous year. Issued under the title Botanisches Bilderbuch für die Jugend und Freunde der Pflanzenkunde, the work had first appeared in twenty-eight fascicles (with 152 plates) from 1794 to 1801. The text comprises detailed descriptions and classifications of the plants, accompanied by notes on their locations and uses; the plates are the work of Johann Stephan Capieux (1748–1813), professor of drawing at the University of Leipzig from 1782 and among the most accomplished German natural-history illustrators of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Provenance: from the celebrated botanical library of Arpad Plesch (1889–1974). A Hungarian financier resident in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Plesch collected fine copies of natural history books from incunables to the twentieth century, specialising in the great French botanical plate-books of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His collection was dispersed by Sotheby’s in 1975.
Nissen 529 (see I, pp. 197-201); Pritzel 2414; for Arpad Plesch, see Cooper, Great Private Collections (1963), pp. 158-167.
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