[William Blake] The botanic garden. A poem, in two parts. Part I. Containing the economy of vegetation. Part II. The loves of the plants. With philosophical notes

DARWIN, Erasmus (1731-1802)

Published by printed for J. Johnson, St. Paul's Church-Yard {through 1791], 1789
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4to: xii,214,126,[2]; [4],ix,[1],197,[1]pp, with 20 full-page copper-engraved plates (frontispiece, plus nine plates in first part; frontispiece and nine further plates in second), collated and complete. The two parts published separately, then bopund in this single volume with a general (joint) title page, dated 1791, and separate title pages for each of the two parts. Part I is a Second Edition (reissue of the original edition of the same year, the volume title page reset with 'second edition,' intended to accompany the first, second or third-as here-edition of Part II, published in 1789, 1790 and 1791, respectively; the fourth edition of 1799 was the first to unite both parts in a single published volume). Contemporary sprinkled calf, covers framed with elaborate floral roll, flat spine richly gilt in seven compartments, black morocco lettering piece gilt; all edges sprinkled blue, period marbled end papers. Fine, with plates in deep, rich impressions; scattered spotting to some plate edges, trivial offsetting to pages opposite plates, else a stunningly bright, fresh, clean, wide-margined copy. Henrey 470. Nissen BBI 451. Lowndes 593. Bentley & Nurmi 363B. The author's masterpiece (and chief source of his literary fame), The Botanic Garden is a fascinating amalgam of poetry, science and splendid engravings (including a handful by William Blake). Erasmus was Charles Darwin's grandfather, and he led the way with his own bold ideas (the nearly 300 footnotes and 115 pages of appendices contain copious advanced scientific information). He was also an abolitionist, and there is one small extraordinary engraving of a slave in these pages ("Am I Not a Man and a Brother") designed by Darwin's friend Josiah Wedgewood. But The Botanic Garden is probably most coveted today for Blake's engravings (Lord Byron called the poem a "Pompous rhyme; the scenery is its sole recommendation," though Horace Walpole, William Cowper and others accorded it high praise), the "Fertilization of Egypt," after Henry Fuseli, and four views of the Portland vase (copies of which were then being potted by Wedgwood), as well as, perhaps, the two unsigned plates representing Cypripedium and Erythrina Corallodendron(Bentley & Nurmi). Part II, "The Loves of the Plants," was actually published first (and anonymously in 1789-Darwin feared his reputation as a physician might suffer through identification with poetry). In four cantos, narrated by the goddess of botany, the poem presents dramatized representations of eighty-three plant species, interspersed with dialogues about the nature of poetry. It revises and illustrates Linnaeus's classification scheme for plants, presenting, in Norman's phrase, a "single-minded catalogue of vegetable sex-life" (stamens are represented as men and pistils as women: lovers, brides, husbands, courtships, and pregnancies abound). Part I, "The Economy of Vegetation," also in four cantos (one on each of the classical elements-fire, earth, water, and air), was first published in The Botanic Garden, which reprints The Love of Plants, thus completing the two-part project Darwin had conceived while cultivating his garden outside Litchfield and translating Linnaeus. "The Economy of Vegetation" presents a sweeping panorama of nature and industry, "celebrating the achievements of both natural philosophers and industrialists, including Wedgwood, William Herschel, Henry Cavendish, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Priestley, James Watt, Matthew Boulton, James Brindley, Thomas Savery, and John Whitehurst. . . . Vivid representations of industrial processes such as the manufacture of steel and the operations of steam engines and coining machinery are juxtaposed with poetic descriptions of the natural world." (ODNB). Bookseller Inventory #

Bibliographic Details

Title: [William Blake] The botanic garden. A poem, ...
Publisher: printed for J. Johnson, St. Paul's Church-Yard {through 1791]
Publication Date: 1789
Binding: Full Calf
Book Condition: Fine

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