Complete set of this celebrated work; five medium 8vo volumes (240 x 155 mm) in all, uniformly in a somewhat later half morocco binding, with cloth sides; raised bands to spines, tooled in six compartments, with red and brown morocco lettering-pieces to second and third compartments in each case, the others ornately gilt with central fleurons, apart from the lowest compartment which has "Port Elizabeth Public Library" in gilt; library name blocked in central oval to upper board of each volume; all edges gilt; marbled endpapers; Sotheran's minute hand-stamp to front free endpapers verso; pp. xii + 223 + (i), (ii) + [1*-19*] + (i) + 199 + (i), (ii) + 209 + (i), (iv) + 184, vi + 281 + (i) + (xxiv).
Five hundred and fifty hand-coloured plates, one hundred to each of the first four volumes, and one hundred and fifty to the final one. Extremities somewhat rubbed; some dye lifted from fourth compartments with removal of library code labels; lower hinge of heavier fifth volume starting; remnant of bookplate to front free endpapers; library codes and stamps, including de-accession stamps, to prelims., some small stamps elsewhere, though never to the front of plates; moderate foxing and browning, affecting the plates themselves very little. Each book has its own index, and the final volume includes the systematic index and general index, followed by notes and corrections.
A thorough collation reveals the following points requiring clarification: 1. In Volume 3, there is no leaf for pp. 31,32, though also no missing text, as the consecutive plates and accompanying descriptions are present. 2. Similarly, there appear to be printing errors in Volume 4, where there are no leaves for pp.7,8, or pp. 79,80, and again the consecutive plates and their descriptions are not missing. 3. In Volume 5, '241' appears at the head of the page that should be 237 ('238' to verso), but the text is appropriate for the facing consecutive plate; '239' then appears at the head of the page that should be 243, the pagination continuing '240, 241, 243, ...,' etc. Once again, the required plates and descriptions are all present. The standard of the colouring is consistently excellent throughout the five hundred and fifty plates. This is a remarkable set, the volumes overall in good to very good condition, and the plates outstanding.
James Sowerby (1757-1822), although best known for his pioneering botanical publications, deserves no less recognition for the production of lavishly illustrated works on other branches of natural history, most notably mineralogy. The illustrations in the ground-breaking 'British Mineralogy' were produced from studying mineral specimens in Sowerby's own collection, along with others loaned by geologists. The hand-colouring was done by the Sowerbys themselves, with some helpers.
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