Icones Pictae Plantarum RariorumSMITH, James Edward [and SOWERBY, James]
London: n.p.. 1790-93.
First Edition. Folio. Folio. 490x310mm. Unpaginated. Issued without a title page but here a title page has been written in manuscript. Dedication page to the Marchioness of Rockingham and Preface. 37 pp. text and 18 coloured plates. Plate 6 (Portlandia grandiflora) is a large folded image. Text in English. Nineteenth century marbled paper over boards with green cloth to the spine. There is wear to the backstrip with tearing at the head and foot with some loss. The covers are worn at the extremities and there is bumping to the edges and corners. The text block is in excellent condition with only minor chipping to the edges and foxing. The celebrated plates by James Sowerby are in fine condition throughout, protected by tissue paper with all titles and descriptions clearly legible. This is a very good copy of an important and scarce book.
Sir James Edward Smith (1759-1828) was born in Norwich, educated at home and then at Edinburgh University where he studied medicine. He also took a medical degree at the University of Leiden. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1785 and in 1788, he, with The Reverend Samuel Goodenough and Thomas Marsham founded the Linnean Society and Smith was appointed its first President. Smith was one of the leading botanists of his day publishing his first book on plants in 1785. The Icones Pictae was issued in three fasciculi (Henrey, 1345) in 1790 (pls. 1-6), 1792 (pls 7-12) and 1793 (pls 13-18) but was left incomplete due to insufficient patronage.
Smith and Sowerby were close friends and professional colleagues. Smith contributed much of the text for Sowerby's journal, English Botany and they worked together on Exotic Botany, A Specimen of the botany of New Holland as well as the Icones Pictae. In his preface to this work, Smith describes Sowerby as “one of the best botanical draughtsmen this country ever possessed”. These are generous, but as this volume demonstrates, well-deserved words.