Vegetable materia medica of the United States; or medical botany...

Publisher Information: Philadelphia: M. Carey & Son, 1817.

Barton, William P. C. (1786-1856). Vegetable materia medica of the United States; or medical botany: Containing a botanical, general, and medical history, of medicinal plants indigenous to the United States. 2 vols. 273, [3]; xvi, 9-243pp. 50 hand-colored engraved plates after drawings by the author, who also colored some of the plates. Philadelphia: M. Carey & Son, 1817-1818 [i.e., 1819]. 270 x 218 mm.19th-century half calf, marbled boards, rebacked, a bit rubbed, light edgewear. Light toning, old library stamps on the titles and the versos of the plates (not showing through) but very good with all the plates in very good clean condition. Bookplate of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland.

First Edition. Along with Jacob Bigelow’s American Medical Botany (1817-20), Barton’s popular and influential Vegetable Materia Medica enjoys the distinction of being the first botanical work with colored plates published in the United States. Both men had studied medicine under Barton’s uncle, Benjamin Smith Barton, and both had very likely been inspired by the elder Barton’s efforts toward compiling a national pharmacopeia. It is probable, however, that the germ of Barton’s work took root before that of Bigelow’s: in a letter to Bigelow (quoted in full in Wolfe’s American Medical Botany, p. 95), Barton stated that his decision to publish an American materia medica dated from the death of his uncle in 1815, while Bigelow, according to what may be inferred from his correspondence, did not decide to pursue his own project until the spring of 1816.

Barton published his work in an edition of only 500 copies, and did not plan as many entries as Bigelow. As a result, Barton was able to find enough colorists to help him complete his project. Bigelow planned a larger edition and had to resort to a color-printing process rather than hand-coloring for some of his plates rather than hand-coloring. Barton’s hand-colored plates, after his own drawings and colored by himself in many cases, were often elegant, and were preferred by his contemporaries, for whom the novelty of color printing did not hold so much interest. Even so, not all of the copies of Barton’s work have all the plates colored, as in our copy, and in some copies the plates are not colored at all.

Vegetable Materia Medica was originally published in eight parts, with the final number issued in March 1819. Some copies of Barton’s work contain two advertisement leaves in Volume I: The first leaf indicates that 500 copies of Barton’s work were published; and the second leaf contains a notice “To the binder,” instructing him how to handle the plates and notifying him that the advertisement leaves in Vol. I “are not to be bound with the work.” A third volume of Barton’s work was advertised in 1820, but never issued. Johnston, Cleveland Herbal, Botanical, and Horticultural Collections, 830. Nissen, Botanische Buchillustration, 85. Norman 127.

Book Id: 50241

Price: $8,500.00

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