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.