- New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2012.
- 6 x 9 inches
- 128 pages
- ISBN: 9781584563037
Price: $95.00 other currencies
Order Nr. 108936
Second edition, limited to 260 copies.
Jacob Bigelow's American Medical Botany, published in three volumes between 1817 and 1821 and containing sixty colored plates, occupies a unique place in American book printing and book illustration. Of all the books published in the United States before the mid-nineteenth century introduction of chromolithography, it was the only one to have its plates mechanically printed in color, not colored by hand in the usual manner of the day.
Richard J. Wolfe's classic study of this seminal work, issued initially in 1979 and now reissued in a revised and augmented edition, has made use of Dr. Bigelow's previously unavailable manuscript papers and other previously unknown or little known records to come up with some startling conclusions. His investigations show that Dr. Bigelow's original plan was to have his plates colored by hand by artists. But this plan proved overly ambitious and the project faced failure. So, he and those working with him invented a method of printing the book's plates on stone in a simple manner that prefigured and predated chromolithography by about two decades, thus enabling him to bring his projected work to a successful conclusion. Wolfe's investigation of the origin, printing, binding, and distribution through subscription of this signal work also constitutes an important case study of the production, from conception to completion, of a significant book of that early period.
The 1979 edition of Wolfe's work went out of print quickly. As in that edition, this second edition contains, tipped in, two of Bigelow's original plates, one left uncolored and one colored by hand. These plates were rendered obsolete when the doctor and his cohorts discovered a novel way of printing them in color.