AMERICAN NATURAL HISTORY

Exoticorum libri decem: quibus animalium, plantarum, aromatum, aliorumque peregrinorum fructuum historiæ describuntur..

Ex officina Plantiniana Raphelengii, 1605

£3,250

FIRST EDITION. Folio. 2 parts in one. pp[xviii], 378, [x], 52; [xii], 242, [ii] 8 (+1), A-S, T, V, X, Y-2F, 2G, 2H-2I, 2K, 3A-3C, 3D; * 2A-2T 2V. Without ‘Altera appendix ad Rariorum Plantarum Historiam’ often lacking. Roman letter, some Italic, greek and Arabic. First title within very fine engraved border, (just trimmed at head), Plantin’s woodcut device on second title, extra illustrated with fine full page engraved portrait of L’Ecluse within grotesque border from ‘Rariorum Plantarum Historia’ (Jan Moretus, Antwerp, 1601) by Jacques de Gheyn, inumerable woodcut illustrations of plants, birds and animals in text. Light age yellowing, some marginal spotting, the odd marginal mark. A good copy in later tan sheep, covers bordered with a single gilt rule, rebacked and remounted, later eps, a.e.r.

First edition of this major work on non-European plants and animals, by the celebrated botanist Clusius (1526-1609). The first six books, Libri I-VI, are new writings by L’Écluse, devoted to new species of plants, animal, and natural history products from the New World, Southeast Asia, Africa, etc. This work is important for the number of new descriptions of non-European plants birds and animals. Charles de l’Ecluse (1526-1609) trained as a doctor but is most famous for his work as a botanist, including the creation of one of the first botanical gardens at Leiden, and for his observations on the “breaking” of tulips which led to Dutch tulip mania in the mid 16th century. His ‘ten books of exotica’ was his last work and is beautifully and extensively illustrated.This was one of the first natural histories published in Europe dealing exclusively with novel exotic plants and animals, including the dodo and birds of paradise. “Charles L’Écluse .. was born in Enkhiuzen in northern Holland, and became professor of botany at Leiden University in the 1590’s. He came into contact with a wide array of naturalia through his extensive network of contacts, including merchants, scholars, collectors and apothecaries. .. In the appendix to book five are entries on two very different birds: the dodo, a rotund and flightless bird from the island of Mauritius, and the birds of paradise, spectacularly plumed creatures from the forests of Papua New Guinea.   L’Écluse added material about the dodo and birds of paradise to the Exoticorum even as the book was being published, distinguishing his work amongst the learned scholars and naturalists for whom it became an authoritative text. .. the dodo was largely unknown in Europe until L’Écluse constructed it for the first time in the Exoticorum. L’Écluse was not only staking a claim over this bird, but undertaking its textual genesis. There were very few whole dodo specimens in Europe, and L’Écluse certainly never saw a whole bird. As with the birds of paradise, he instead used his network of correspondents to secure experience of partial specimens. Pauw owned a ‘leg cut off as far as the knee’ and another the collector owned ‘certain stones’ from the dodo’s stomach. L’Ecluse, adding painstaking descriptions of these objects to information and an image based on the journals from the first Dutch landing on Mauritius.” Natalie Lawrence ‘Disembodied Birds.’

“L’Ecluse’s work, which can be described as the starting point of our modern knowledge for many genera. His description and the associated illustrations thus help to typify the species of later authors. Moreover his enthusiastic cultivation of foreign plants, particularly those from Turkey and the Levant, prepared the way for the splendid gardens of seventeenth century France, Germany, Austrai, Flanders and Holland; and his introduction of the potato to the Low Countries rendered no less a service to their food. His death in 1609 is commemorated in the felicitous epitaph: When Clusius knew each plant Earth’s bosom yields, He went a-simpling in the Elysian fields” Blunt and Stearn ‘The Art of Botanical Illustration’..

Clusius was not only an original biologist but also a remarkable linguist. He became well known as a translator and editor of the works of others. Exoticorum libri decem consists partly of his own discoveries, partly of translated and edited versions of earlier publications, always properly acknowledged, and with many new illustrations. Separately identifiable within this compendium can be found Clusius’s Latin translations, with his own notes, from: Garcia de Orta, Colóquios dos simples e drogas he cousas medicinais da Índia (1563) Nicolás Monardes, Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales (1565–1574). Cristóbal Acosta, Tractado de las drogas y medicinas de las Indias orientales (1578). There is also material by Prospero Alpini with notes by Clusius. As a separately paginated appendix appears Clusius’s Latin translation (first published in 1589) of: Pierre Belon, Observations (1553).

BM STC Nissen BBI 370. Wellcome 1512. Pritzel 1760. Hunt 182. Arents (add) 65. Alden 605/65 “Included are res to America and American plants.”

L3083