Beautifully bound copy with illustrious provenance, illustrated by Redouté at the same time as he was illustrating Les Liliacées.
Astragalus is a large genus of herbs and small shrubs, belonging to the legume family Fabaceae and the subfamily Faboideae. Common names include milkvetch, locoweed (North America), and goat’s-thorn. It is food for some butterfly larvae and is also used in traditional Chinese and Persian medicine.
Augustin Pyramus de Candolle, a botanist and pioneering agronomist, was born in Geneva in 1778. In 1796, the geologist Déodat de Dolomieu invited him to come to Paris to study both medicine and natural history. He attended the lectures of many of the famous scientists of the day, and was closely acquainted with Cuvier, Lamarck, Desfontaines, and Delessert. Candolle returned to Geneva in 1797, but was back in Paris a year later and remained there until 1808. The years he spent in Paris were in fact remarkably productive, and by the time he was in his early twenties, he was recognised as an important member of the botanical circle. His first major publication was Plantarum historia succulentarum (1799 – 1802), issued in twenty sections with eight more added in 1803. This was followed by Astragalogia.
‘The first monographic study of the genus was done by the naturalist Simon P. Pallas, in the Species Astragalorum (1800), who traveled extensively across the Russian empire in central Asia. Almost simultaneously, De Candolle published this work in which he divided the Linnaean Astragalus into three genera: Astragalus, with obtuse keel (petal) and pod fully or semi-bilocular by inflexion of dorsal suture; Phaca, with obtuse keel and unilocular pod; and Oxytropis, with appendaged keel and semi- to fully bilocular pod by inversion of the ventral suture.’ (Barneby)
First edition. Large paper copy. Folio (52.5 x 35 cm). Half-title, 50 engraved plates by Plee, Tardieu, and others after Redoute; some variable spotting throughout. Contemporary French half red morocco, scarlet paper boards, gilt.
Provenance: 1. Earls of Derby at Knowsley Hall (engraved armorial bookplate of the on the front paste-down), and inscribed with a note about acquisition dated 1816 on the front free endpaper; 2. Robert De Belder, Sotheby’s, 27 April 1997, lot 59.
Redoutéana, 9; Nissen 319; Dunthorne 242. Barneby = Summarized, in part, from Barneby’s (1964; pp. 1-8) “A Short History of the Genus.”
Stock ID: 90237