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Japanese plants depicted for the first time in the West

KAEMPFER, Engelbert (Sir Joseph BANKS, ed.).
Icones selectæ plantarum, quas in Japonia collegit et delineavit.
London, [Library of the British Museum], 1791. Folio (42 x 26.5 cm.). With 59 etched plates, (8 are double-page), by Daniel Mackenzie. Slightly later half calf, marbled sides, gold-tooled monogram AL on spine. [4], 3, [1 blank] pp.
€ 38,000
First and only edition of one of the rarest books on Japanese flora. The author Engelbert Kaempfer (1651 - 1716) was a professor from Lemgo, Germany, who joined the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a medical doctor in 1685. After periods in what are now India and Indonesia he travelled in 1690 to Japan to work as a doctor on Dejima (Deshima), the Dutch trading post or factory in Nagasaki. Sir Hans Sloan acquired his manuscripts, alsong with his drawings and herbarium, and arranged for their translation and publication, the first to appear in translation was The history of Japan in 1727. This English translation established Kaempfer's reputation as the 18th-century authority on Japan and deeply influenced Japan's image in Europe. The renowned botanist and companion of the 1768 Cook expedition Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) was responsible for the editing and publication of the present work and dedicated it to the curators of the Library. In most cases no plates had previously been made from these drawings, so they remained unpublished. In the last years of his life Kaempfer himself had published only a small number of his drawings in his Amoenitatum exoticarum, printed in Lemgo in 1712. Thus the present publication introduces many Japanese plants for the first time to a large audience in the West. Kaempfer's herbrarium is now in the Natural History Museum, South Kensington.
Royal Library duplicate stamp in the foot of title page. With some minor foxing, the last few plates stained only in the lower margin, not affecting the illustrations. Otherwise in very good condition. Great flower books, p. 62; Henrey 886; Nissen BBI, 1019; Stafleu & Cowan 3484.
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Related Subjects:

Asia  >  Japan & Far East | VOC - Dutch East India Company
History, law & philosophy  >  VOC & WIC
Medicine & pharmacy  >  Herbals & Medical Botany
Natural history  >  Floras & Flowering Plants