HUGHES, Griffith (1708?-after 1750). The Natural History of Barbados. London: for the author, 1750.
Folio (16 2/8 x 10 2/8 inches). Subscribers' list, remnants of slip with additional errata and subscribers pasted onto verso of final preface leaf. Folding engraved map of the island of Barbados by Thomas Jefferys, and 30 engraved plates by and after G.D. Ehret and others, all but the first hand-colored in a contemporary hand, engraved vignette head-pieces, woodcut head- and tail-pieces and initials (some minor browning, spotting and offsetting.) Contemporary red goatskin gilt, all edges gilt (recased).
Provenance: Amorial bookplate of Lord Colchester of Kidbrook on the verso of the front free endpaper, donated to; the Constitutional Club Library with a bookplate recording the bequest in 1887 on the front paste-down; from the Important Natural History library of Anita Peek Gilger, M.D.
"THIS BOOK IS ONE TO PLACE BESIDE CATESBY'S NATURAL HISTORY" (Hunt).
First edition, large-paper issue. The first book to describe grapefruit, calling it the "Forbidden-Fruit-Tree": "The fruit when ripe, is something longer and larger than the largest Orange; and exceeds, in the Delicacy of its taste, the fruit of every tree in this or any of our neighbouring islands." (page 127). Not much is known of Hughes, except that he was rector of St. Lucy's parish from 1850, and he was a man who certainly knew his scripture: "The book has many charming features. Not often does a work on natural history contain and index to "TEXTS of Scripture Cited or Illustrated". It is the model work by the colonial parson who knows his poets and would know all he can of the flora and fauna among which he has come to dwell." (Hunt). His description of the Coco-Nut Tree is typical: "Tho' every part of this tree, either in its make or Use, is stamped with so many evident signatures of Divine Wisdom, as to make it justly the object of our admiration; yet, in describing it, we ought not to add to it (as most writers have done) pretended qualities, and excellencies foreign to its nature" (page 103). "Written by the parson of St. Lucy's on Barbados who knew his scripture" (Sitwell "Great Flower Books", p.60).
Like his father before him Ehret trained as a gardener, initially working on estates of German nobility, and painting flowers only occasionally, another skill taught him by his father, who was a good draughtsman. Ehret’s “first major sale of flower paintings came through Dr Christoph Joseph Trew, eminent physician and botanist of Nuremberg, who recognized his exceptional talent and became both patron and lifelong friend. Ehret sent him large batches of watercolours on the fine-quality paper Trew provided. In 1733 Trew taught Ehret the botanical importance of floral sexual organs and advised that he should show them in detail in his paintings. Many Ehret watercolours were engraved in Trew's works, such as ‘Hortus Nitidissimus’ (1750–86) and ‘Plantae selecta’e (1750–73), in part two of which (1751) Trew named the genus Ehretia after him. “During 1734 Ehret travelled in Switzerland and France, working as a gardener and selling his paintings. While at the Jardin des Plantes, Paris, he learned to use body-colour on vellum, thereafter his preferred medium. In 1735 he travelled to England with letters of introduction to patrons including Sir Hans Sloane and Philip Miller, curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden. In the spring of 1736 Ehret spent three months in the Netherlands. At the garden of rare plants of George Clifford, banker and director of the Dutch East India Company, he met the great Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus, who was then formulating his new classification based on plant sexual organs. Ehret painted a Tabella (1736), illustrating the system, and sold engravings of it to botanists in Holland. Some of his paintings of the exotics were engraved in Linnaeus's “Hortus Cliffortianus” (1737).
“[Ehret] signed and dated his work, naming the subject in pre-Linnaean terms. He published a florilegium, “Plantae et papiliones rariores” (1748–62), with eighteen hand-coloured plates, drawn and engraved by himself... Ehret also provided plant illustrations for several travel books [as here]. His distinctive style greatly influenced his successors” (Enid Slatter for DNB). Hunt 536; Nissen 950; Sabin 33582; Wood p.393.