TUSSAC, Francois Richard de (1751-1837). Flore des Antilles, ou histoire generale botanique, rurale et economique des vegetaux indigenes des Antilles. Paris: chez l'auteur, F. Schoell et Hautel, 1808-1818-1824-1827.

$ 250,000.00

4 volumes in 2, large folio (20 6/8 x 14 inches). Half-titles, title-pages for each volume in both French and Latin (spotted throughout, pages 29-80 in volume IV very browned). 137 of a possible 140 stipple-engraved plates printed in colours and finished by hand, by Bouquet, Dien, Gabriel, Massard and others after Dabnour, Poiteau, Pretre, P.J. Redoute and Turpin, including plates bis 25 in volume one, plates 2,4, 10 and 19 magnificent double-page plates, bis 1 in volume III (bound without plates 20, 31 and 32 from volume II as noted by Quaritch in 1976, some mostly marginal spotting throughout). Contemporary green paper boards, each spine with two red morocco lettering-pieces, all edges uncut (joints starting, extremities a bit worn).

Provenance: with the green ink library stamp of the Society of St. Sulpicius at the end of both volumes, and on the title-page of volume III; Arpad Plesch, his sale Sotheby's 16th March 1976; Robert de Belder (1921-1995) and his wife Jelena de Belder-Koracic (1925-2003), horticulturists and proprietors of Arboretum Kalmthout, their sale Sotheby's 28th April 1987, lot 366

First edition, LARGE PAPER COPY, of which Brunet says: 'Il n'a ete tire que 150 exemplaires' (only 150 copies printed). The number of plates found in each copy varies: Dunthorne, Davy de Virille and Brunet mention 138 plates, Stafleu 137 of 140 plates. Regardless of the number, these magnificent coloured illustrations of the exotic flora of the West Indies are amongst the earliest published, and are surely the most sumptuous.

When Europeans first arrived in the West Indies the islands were mostly covered by forest. Centuries of cultivation have altered that landscape considerably, but the islands remain rich in exotic native flora. The earliest botanical surveys of the islands were carried out by French and British naturalists, nearly two hundred years after the discovery of the Americas. These include the work of Plumier (1693, 1703, 1755-60) in the French colonies, and the work of Plukenet (1691), and Sloane (1696, 1707-1725) in the British colonies. Their publications are richly and superbly illustrated and depicted plants never before seen by the Europeans.

Tussac was a French botanist born in Poitou, who moved to Martinique in 1786. "After some years collecting plants on Martinique, Tussac became curator of a botanic garden in Haiti. In 1802 he left Haiti and visited Jamaica before returning to France, where he later took up the directorship of the botanic garden at Angers (1816-1826). He published Flore des Antilles between 1808 and 1827 [as here]. Tussac made 2,000 drawings while in Martinique which were burnt in 1802 during the Haitian war of independence (his herbarium and manuscripts were saved, though the whereabouts of the latter is unknown). The tree fern Cyathea tussaccii (syn. Alsophila tussacii (Desv.) D.S. Conant) collected by Tussac was named after him by his son-in-law, Auguste Desvaux, also his successor at Angers" (Natural History Museum online). The plates are after the leading botanical artists of the time, such as Poiteau, Turpin, Pretre, Redoute and Risso. Dunthorne 312; Nissen 2017; Stafleu TL2 15.397.  

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