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Sowerby, George B. | Popular History of the Aquarium of Marine and Fresh-Water Animals and Plants.

  • First edition, an unusually lovely copy of this charming book with hand-coloured plates depicting a variety of aquatic animals and plants.

    George Brettingham Sowerby (1812-1884) was the grandson of the naturalist and botanical artist James Sowerby, and assisted his father (also George Brettingham) in the elder’s publishing and conchological businesses. The youngest Sowerby was “renowned for the illustrations he produced for the works of other specialists. A volume of drawings, Palaeontology of the Vicinity of Cheltenham (c.1844), showing fossils in the collection of Charles Fowler, suggests that he ought to be regarded as the most artistically talented of the Sowerbys. Crosse in a review (Crosse, 260) commented that he was a mediocre naturalist, a shocking Latinist, but an excellent draughtsman and concluded 'Faites des planches, faites des planches … mais pour l'amour de Dieu ne décriver point de coquille!' ('Make plates, make plates, … but for the love of God don't describe any shells!')” (ODNB).

    The Popular History of the Aquarium came about when the publisher Lovell Reeve persuaded Sowerby to write an account for general audiences, “but not having the necessary knowledge he was criticized for incorporating material published by other authors and labelled as 'one of the greatest proficients in the art of “scissors and paste”' (Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 20, 1857, 139)” (ODNB).

  • London: Lovell Reeve, 1857.

    Octavo. Original green cloth elaborately blocked in gilt and blind with a design of a turtle to the upper board, Westley’s & Co. binder’s ticket to the rear pastedown. Frontispiece and 19 plates, all of which are hand-coloured lithographs. 5 leaves of ads at rear. Cloth just a little rubbed at the tips, a little spotting to the early leaves, including the frontispiece, contents faintly toned in the margins. An excellent copy.