Rare book unearthed

08 May, 2008

Ichthyology of South Carolina
Fig. 1. Perca Flavescens. [Mitchill]. Fig. 2. Pomotis Vulgaris. [ Cuvier]. From Ichthyology of South Carolina. Vol. I. (Image taken from second edition.)
Source: The New York Public Library

From time to time fascinating objects turn up that the Museum didn’t know it had, or had forgotten about.

Val Hogan (Senior Library Technician) made just such a find recently whilst working in the Ichthyology Library, when she discovered a rare first edition of John Edwards Holbrook’s beautiful work Ichthyology of South Carolina, published in 1855.

The unbound copy consists of 10 parts complete with original wrappers. The pages are uncut and the exquisite hand-coloured lithographic plates are in excellent condition, although the wrappers are tattered around the edges.

The rarity of this first edition is enhanced by its interesting history.

Back in 1855, only a few copies of the text had been distributed when a warehouse fire destroyed all the plates, the original drawings and the printing stones. The author sent out a recall but not all copies were returned (including the one we have) and Holbrook temporarily abandoned the project. A complete second edition, with reworked text and new plates, was published in 1860.

Donald Heald Rare Books, New York offered in their Selection of Books, Spring 2007, a bound copy of the 1855 edition for sale at US $15,000.

Comments (4)

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Deirdre O'Neill 31 January, 2010 02:09
Message for Val Hogan re the Artist William Hodges R.A. My long email to you about the above was rejected. I have more info about him. Have you got a new email address? Deirdre
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Discovery Centre 1 February, 2010 15:51

Hi Deirdre. You are most welcome to forward your email regarding William Hodges R.A. to Museum Victoria's Discovery Centre. The Discovery Centre manages all public enquiries made to the Museum and can pass your information and details to our Library staff.

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peacay 19 June, 2010 14:15
So is it on a list to be digitised so the rest of us ungloved plebs can experience it? NYPL has its good side but 300px wide 2nd Ed. plates are not it.
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Discovery Centre 23 June, 2010 16:47

Hi Peacay - the Museum's Librarians have suggested you check out the Biodiversity Heritage Library where you can already access this book online.

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