Dorothy Sloan -- Books

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Lot 72

285 Copper-Engraved Plates of the Flora & Fauna of Jamaica

72. SLOANE, Hans, Sir. A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica, with the Natural History of the Herbs and Trees, Four-footed Beasts, Fishes, Birds, Insects, Reptiles, &c. of the last of those Islands; To which is Prefix'd an Introduction, Wherein is an Account of the Inhabitants, Air, Waters, Diseases, Trade, &c of that Place, with some Relations concerning the Neighbouring Continent, and Islands of America.... London: Printed by B[enjamin] M[otte] for the Author, 1707 & 1725. [16], cliv, 264 [1, blank] pp., 1 leaf with 3 maps (i. e., Plate I), 155 plates (numbered 1 to 156) + [4], xviii, 499 [1 blank] pp., 129 plates (one series numbered II to XI, another numbered 157-274). Total: 285 folding copper-engraved plates (including leaf of maps) of botany, birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, insects, scenes, etc.; titles printed in red and black. (The map is counted as Plate I and is followed by ten other plates numbered II-XI; a second series of plates is numbered 1-274.) 2 vols., folio, full contemporary calf, spine extra-gilt with gilt-lettered tan and dark green morocco labels, raised bands, edges sprinkled red (skillfully rebacked, original covers and spines laid down, voids to covers and corners neatly filled). Occasional very minor foxing and very light staining to a few plates and leaves in Vol. I. Occasional neat pencil and ink marginal annotations in both vols. A few plant specimens laid in Vol. I, one with nineteenth-century ink notes. A few plates have closed tears and about ten others are slightly trimmed, barely into the image area. Overall, the text and plates are very fine and fresh. All leaves mounted on stubs (contemporary with book), as is often the case (cited by Hunt). This is a handsome set with the plates in strong impressions.

     On the front pastedown of each vol. is the engraved blue and white book label of Jared Potter Kirtland of Cleveland, Ohio. Kirtland (1793-1877) was a prominent physician, naturalist, and educator, who, after receiving his education on the East Coast, moved to Ohio where he spent the rest of his life and where he was instrumental in the advancement of medicine and natural sciences, particularly discovering several native species of fish in Ohio streams. He was a prolific author who wrote nearly two hundred scientific articles. See DAB.

     First edition. European Americana 707/138 & 725/188. Arents 467. Cox II, p. 210. Cundall 168. Great Flower Books 76: “A fundamental work for West Indian botany.” Handler 19. Hunt 417: “The earliest representations of the flora and fauna of Jamaica.” JCB III:102. Nissen, ZBI 1854. Palau 315109. Pritzel 8723. Sabin 82169. Stafleu 1232.

     Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), the first British medical practitioner to receive an hereditary title, began his career when he was sent to Jamaica in 1687 as the personal physician to the Duke of Albemarle, who had been appointed the island’s governor. Although his patient died shortly after arriving on the island, Sloane’s reputation hardly suffered from the coincidence, and he filled his time collecting plant and animal specimens on the island. After returning to London in 1689, with over 800 specimens, he established himself as a successful physician and began a life-long passion for collecting materials similar to those he had started accumulating in the West Indies. His huge collection became an important resource for other investigators, and in an act of extraordinary generosity, he made provisions in his will that Britain could purchase it for £20,000. After the collection was purchased, it became the foundation of the present-day British Museum and is still used to this day.

     This work introduced England and Europe to the flora and fauna of Jamaica. In 1700 Sloane commissioned Everhardus Kickius to make drawings of some of the specimens, from which the engravers Vander Gucht and Savage executed the plates from the dried specimens from Sloane’s herbarium. Also included were drawings by Garrett Moore done for Sloane in Jamaica and representing plants that were unsuitable for preservation by drying. Although the title page states that the plates show images “as big as the life,” some of the illustrations are actually of a reduced size. Sometimes criticized for lacking artistic merit, the plates were probably never intended to be anything other than literal representations of their subjects. The work is a foundation stone of any collection of natural science or the West Indies.

      Despite the fame of the work for its natural history illustrations, other aspects of the work sometimes overlooked also are important. Sloane was interested in cochineal, and Plate IX especially is a stunning illustration of the growing of cochineal and maguey in Mexico. While in Jamaica, Sloane also continued his medical practice. The introduction includes a section entitled “Of the Diseases I Observed in Jamaica, and the Method by Which I Used to Cure Them” (Vol. I, pp. xc-cliv). In this fairly substantial disquisition on various ailments he encountered among both the European and African-American residents, he comes to the somewhat startling conclusion that there really is no difference in diseases among the races. For example, in speaking of the prevalence on gonorrhea in the population, he concludes: “I was of the opinion of the generality of the World when I went to Jamaica, but found as the Disease was propagated there the same way, and had the same Symptoms and Course amongst Europeans, Indians, and Negroes, so required the same Remedies and time to be cured” (Vol. I, pp. cxxviii). Finally, one of Sloane’s personal discoveries during his visit was cocoa, which he did not like because it was bitter. He later learned to mix it with milk and even prescribed it as a medicine. He eventually sold the rights to his formula to the Cadburys, thus giving us their modern-day chocolate. (2 vols.) ($30,000-50,000)

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