Botanical Prints of Camellias
Laurent Berlèse, Paris: Early 1840s

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Laurent Berlèse (1784-1863) (editor)
J.J. Jung (after)
Dumenil, Gabriel and Oudet (engravers)
N. Remond (printer)
Natural History Studies of Camellias
from Iconographie du Genre Camellia ou Description et Figures Des Camellia Les Plus Beaux et Les Plus Rares Peints D'Aprés Nature
[Iconography of the Camellia or Description and Pictures of the Most Beautiful and the Most Rare Camellias Painted from Nature]
H. Cousin, Paris: 1841-43
Stipple engravings, partly colored printed, finished by hand, heightened with gum arabic
14 x 10.5 inches, average approximate size
$375 to $750 each

Camellia flowers, pink, white, and striated, from the definitive 19th century work on the subject.  Each flower was drawn by J.J. Jung, member of the Royal Society for Horticulture in Paris, from the varieties grown in the gardens and hothouses of Berlèse, an Italian botanist who became the world's leading authority on the subject. The subtle distinctions of many of the hundreds of varieties of camellias classified by Berlèse are beautifully represented with scientific accuracy in this authoritative series of prints, through the use of the sophisticated stipple engraving technique.

The Abbe Laurent (or Lorenzo) Berlèse was a wealthy Italian abbot who carried out his botanical studies in Paris, where he established his own greenhouses.  The camellia, which originated in China and Japan, was still something of an exotic plant.  First reported in European scientific literature around 1700, travelers to Asia brought back cultivars during the 18th century.  The first illustrations from live specimens, by British natural history artist George Edwards, appeared mid 18th century.  Berlèse’s achievement was the establishment of a classification system for camellias based on the flower form.  By the third of edition of his Monographie du Genre Camellia (1837-1840) he listed 701 varieties.  He followed this work with the influential Iconographie du Genre Camellia, a major three-volume study of 300 varieties (the source of these prints).  In 1846, he sold his camellia collection to a commercial grower, returned to Italy and published no further works on the subject.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear.  Some minor miniscule particle adhesion to gum Arabic, as is typical.  Very minor occasional light scattered foxing.  Some sheets more white in tone, others creamier.

Reference:

Scott, Patrick and Tasseva, Mila. “The Culture of Camellias.”  University of South Carolina Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. 26 May 2000.  http://www.sc.edu/library/spcoll/nathist/camellia/camellia4.html (3 March 2005).