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Lot 18: John Edwards (1742-1815)

Natural History

by Christie's

October 19, 1999

London, United Kingdom

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Description: A Collection of Flowers drawn after Nature, & disposed in an Ornamental & Picturesque Manner. [London: 1783-1798]. 2 (484 x 336mm). Engraved throughout. Decorative pictorial title with oval paper lettering slip pasted in place and manuscript 'imprint' dated 2 January 1798, 81 FINE HAND-COLOURED ENGRAVED PLATES BY EDWARDS. (Title with vertical creases, neatly repaired tears and some spotting, upper outer corner of the 23rd plate torn away and repaired, the 55th plate "Moss province Rose buds" from a smaller copy.) Modern green morocco gilt, covers with decorative border of fillets and decorative foliage roll, spine in six compartments with rasied bands, lettered in the second, the others with repeat pattern of a single centrally-placed flower-spray tool within gilt ruled oblong. A FINE COPY, WITH THE LARGEST NUMBER OF PLATES RECORDED, OF A 'SUPERB AND VERY RARE WORK BY A GREAT ARTIST, WHOSE CRAFTSMANSHIP IS EQUAL TO THE BEST OF THE 18TH CENTURY': (Dunthorne). This work seems to have been published at various times in various forms: most authorities agree that the work should comprise a title and 79 plate (Dunthorne calls for 77), most give 1801 as the date of publication on the title (Henrey gives 1795) but a number of copies have appeared at auction dated 1784. The present copy with 81 plates and dated 1798 on the title appears to be a new unrecorded variant. The plates fall into two main categories. There are 12 plates of 'designs' with a floral theme, and 69 plates of more straight-forward botanical subjects, either single sprays or small bouquets, often tied with ribbon. 29 of the plates show the subjects within ovals defined by a bodycolour border, 40 have simple lined borders. The three largest plates have no borders and include the work's masterpiece, plate 24 Eastern Poppy ; this plate alone justifies Dunthorne's assertion. Edwards, one of the most notable English botanical artists of the 18th century, exhibited widely in London between 1763 and 1812, and was also well-known as a designer for the calico-printing industry. The date of his death was unknown, but the owner of the present work has pointed out an entry in the Gentleman's Magazine for September 1815 (p.282) noting that on 31st August "At Hampstead, in his 73rd year, Mr.John Edwards" died. Dunthorne 105; Great Flower Books (1990) p.93; Henrey III. 673; Nissen BBI 579; L.Tongiorgi Tomasi An Oak Spring Flora 64.

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