SOWERBY, James (1755-1822). British Mineralogy: or coloured figures intended to elucidate the Mineralogy of Great Britain. London: R. Taylor and Co., and Arding and Merrett, sold by James Sowerby, [1802-]1804-1817. 5 volumes bound in 6, 8° (237 x 139mm). Duplicate title-page from volume 1 used as title to volume 6. 550 hand-coloured engraved plates by James Sowerby, many heightened with gum arabic. (Some occasional very light offsetting and unobtrusive light spotting or browning, mainly to text leaves, a few text leaves mainly at the end of volumes with heavier spotting and soiling, plate 118 in vol. 4 adhered to accompanying text leaf.) Contemporary half russia (tail of spine of vol. 2 defective, joints cracking with upper cover detached from vol. 3 and several others loose, extremities lightly rubbed). Provenance: Charles Bathurst, first Viscount Bledisloe (1867?1958), agriculturist and politician (engraved armorial bookplates).
FIRST EDITION OF 'THE MOST AMBITIOUS COLORPLATE WORK ON MINERALS EVER PUBLISHED' (Conklin). All the plates were meticulously drawn from actual specimens in Sowerby's personal mineralogical collection, and then engraved and skilfully hand-coloured. Sowerby issued the work in parts, and it became an influential source of information at a time when the study of geology and mineralogy was becoming extremely fashionable. BM(NH) V, p.1982; Challinor 56; Conklin, 'James Sowerby, his Publications and Collections' in The Mineralogical Record 26 (1995), pp.85-105; Lowndes III, p.2463; Ward & Carozzi 2090. (6)