American Natural History from William Reese

R0613

American Natural History from William Reese


Here is another New York item, and it is quite spectacular: Natural History of New York. The New York Natural History and Geological Survey, formed by the state legislature in 1836, commissioned this work. It grew beyond all expectations. By the time it was finished, it consisted of 30 volumes, published over a period of more than 50 years. The first 17 volumes were published from 1842-1854. The final volume was to be paleontology, but, Reese explains, state paleontologist James Hall managed to turn the project into a lifetime career. Instead of one volume, paleontology grew to thirteen, the final one published in 1894 when Hall was 83-years-old. Hall's job security left us with a wonderful record of New York's natural history, but today a complete collection is extremely rare. Item 114. $25,000.

One of the most important narratives of the early American South is found in William Bartram's Travels Through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, The Cherokee Country.... Published in 1791, this first edition recounts Bartram's explorations, telling us much about the region's natural history as well as the Indians who resided in the territory. Howes describes it as, "A work of high character well meriting its wide esteem." Item 23. $20,000. If that's a bit pricey for your budget, item 24 is the first London edition of the same work from 1792. $6,000. Or, providing you understand German, item 25 is the first German edition from 1793, Reisen Durch Nord und Sud Karolina, Georgien.... $2,000.

Sticking to a Southern theme, item 118 is Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests....Being a Medical Botany of the Confederate States.... by Francis Porcher. Porcher was a major figure in southern medical circles, having founded a hospital for slaves in Charleston in 1855. The late 1850s found Porcher involved in using the microscope to find the cause of disease, a very recent development at the time. However, his studies were disrupted by the Civil War. Porcher was needed by the Confederacy to help find medical cures using indigenous plants and local remedies, the South having been cut off from most outside resources. The result was this book, published in 1863. It has been called one of the most important works of the Confederacy. $6,000.

Women shared men's interest in natural history during the 19th century, but their role in society made it hard for them to be treated as equal scientists. One of the results was a genre of books with illustrations of plants and animals by women, but they were accompanied by poetry instead of scientific data. It was okay for women to write or republish poetry; they just couldn't be scientists. An example of such a work is Laura Munson's Flowers from my Garden....with an Introductory Poem by Mrs. L.H. Sigourney. Published in 1864, it contains 18 hand-colored plates, each accompanied by a poem. Item 112. $3,000.