Pick of the Month
With a gardening theme in mind, the pick of the month is a lovely book of flower engravings from a nineteenth-century French master illustrator. It comes from the extensive inventory of W. Graham Arader III, in New York, NY.
The Pick of the Month is provided in cooperation with Fine Books & Collections.
The Fruits and Flowers of a Master
Choix des Plus Belles Fleurs [A Selection of Beautiful Flowers] by Pierre-Joseph Redouté
Publisher: Ernest Panckoucke
Publication Date: 1827
Binding: Green leather spine with gilt, the spine has been rebacked with the old spine laid on top, the boards are green blind stamped cloth.
Edition: First Edition
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Pierre-Joseph Redoute (1759–1840), often called "the Raphael of flowers," was born in the Belgian Ardennes—the son, grandson, great-grandson and brother of artists. From the beginning, Redoute's talents were recognized by distinguished men and women who took pleasure in forwarding his career. For the study of botany, his teacher was Heritier de Brutelle, one of the outstanding naturalists of his day. Gerard van Spaendonck, Flower Painter to the King, taught Redoute the technique of painting in watercolor on vellum. But by the master's own account, the pupil's work was finer.
Redouté had, as pupils or patrons, five queens and empresses of France, from Marie Antoinette to Josephine's successor, the Empress Marie-Louise. Despite many changes of regime in this turbulent epoch, he worked without interruption, eventually contributing to over fifty books on natural history and archaeology. The Choix des Plus Belles Fleurs is one of Redoute's last works. The "choice" is personal, the favorite flowers and fruits of a master who had devoted a lifetime to the arc of botanical illustration. There are the spectacular blooms of formal gardening, but also many more modest blooms of wayside flowers. Although small in size, these prints have the peculiar virtue of concentration, by which we can savor the essence of each beautiful flower.
The luminosity of stipple engravings used to illustrate this book is particularly suited to the reproduction of botanical detail. It is essentially a technique of engraving a copper plate with a dense grid of dots that can be modulated to convey delicate gradations of color. Because the ink lies on the paper in miniscule dots, it does not obscure the "light" of the white paper beneath the color. After this complicated printing process was complete, the prints were then finished by hand in watercolor, so as to conform to the models Redouté provided.
While the first and early editions of Redouté’s selected flowers are quite expensive, a number of facsimile editions have been published at a wide range of prices, with top dollar going to the highest quality reproductions.
Octavo, a company set up by John Warnock, co-founder of the software company Adobe Systems, made high-resolution scans of dozens of books and put them on CD-ROM. The CD includes the first-ever English translation of the entire text of the book.