The Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia
first editionContemporary morocco, marbled boards
by ABBOT, JOHN; SMITH, JAMES EDWARD
T. Bensley for J. Edwards, Cadell and Davies, and J. White. FIRST EDITION. Contemporary morocco, marbled boards. Very Good. THE EARLIEST BOOK EVER PUBLISHED ON AMERICAN BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS; COMPLETE WITH 104 STUNNING HAND-COLORED FOLIO ENGRAVINGS. A BEAUTIFUL COPY IN RIVIERE & SON BINDING. "John Abbot, naturalist and artist, born at Bennet Street, St James, London, on 1 June 1751, was the second of the five children of John Abbot (d. 1787), a prosperous attorney, and his wife, Ann Clousinger. As a youth, Abbot developed a passion for entomology and for drawing, an enthusiasm that was supported by his father, who retained Jacob Bonneau, an accomplished draughtsman, as an art instructor for his son. The elder Abbot also bought illustrated works of natural history, including George Edwards's four-volume classic, A Natural History of Uncommon Birds (1743-51), which exerted a major stylistic influence on his son. The Abbots received as a gift a copy of Mark Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (1731-43), a work that probably contributed to Abbot's later decision to move to America. As a teenager, Abbot achieved a remarkable mastery of artistic technique, and by 1770 was invited to exhibit his watercolour drawings of British insects at the Society of Artists of Great Britain, of which he was an honorary member. Apprenticed to his father as a law clerk in 1769, Abbot found that legal matters were 'little to my liking when my thoughts was ingrossed by Natural history'; and in the same year he firmly resolved to pursue natural history as a career, after being awestruck by the vast entomological collections of Dru Drury. Under Drury's influence, Abbot decided to travel to North America; and in 1773, having received sponsorship from the Royal Society and from Drury and Thomas Martyn (fl. 1760-1816), Abbot sailed to Virginia, where he began shipping specimens to his British patrons. In December 1775 he moved to the lower Savannah River area of Georgia, where he lived for the rest of his life, residing at various times in Savannah and in Bulloch, Burke, and Screven counties. "Abbot apparently supported himself almost entirely by providing specimens and watercolour drawings of insects, spiders, and birds to buyers in America and to his correspondents in Britain and Europe... During much of his lifetime, Abbot was the most prolific and talented illustrator of birds and insects in America; and Swainson noted that Abbot's insect specimens were 'certainly the finest that have ever been transmitted as articles of commerce to this country' (Simpson, North Carolina Historical Review). "Because Abbot never published any works under his own name, the extent of his contributions to ornithology and entomology remained largely unrecognized until the latter half of the twentieth century. Although he may have viewed his work as mostly commercial, his data and illustrations were of considerable significance to a number of major scientific publications. He remains best-known for providing data and the 104 illustrations to the earliest extensive monograph devoted entirely to North American entomology, Sir James Edward Smith's Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia (1797)" (Dictionary of National Biography). Sabin 25. Bound by Riviere & Son, with binder's stamp on front free endpaper of each volume. Text in English and French. Later issue, as usual, with most plates with 1822 watermark on J. Whatman Turkey Mills wove paper. [Full title]: The Natural History of the rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia. Including their systematic characters, the particulars of their several metamorphoses, and the plants on which they feed. Collected from the observations of Mr John Abbot, many years resident in that country, by James Edward Smith. London: printed by T. Bensley for J. Edwards, Cadell and Davies, and J. White, 1797 [but 1822]. Folio (12x15.5 in./ 303 x 394mm) c.1900 three-quarter morocco by Riviere & Son, marbled boards, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Mild scuffing to bindings; vol I binding with a gouge in the leather (approx. 1/2 inch by 1 inch) on the board; toning to blank endpaper from laid-in related newspaper clipping; offsetting to blanks following plates (as usual); some foxing to text leaves, plates exceptionally clean. An outstanding set.
(Inventory #: 1861)
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