MILLER, John Frederick & SHAW, George

Cimelia Physica. Figures of Rare and Curious Quadrupeds, Birds, &c. Together with several of the most Elegant Plants.

Published: London: Printed by T. Bensley for Benjamin and John White and John Sewell:

Date: 1796

second edition folio [2], 106pp., 60 etched plates by Miller (41 of birds) with fine original hand colouring, some plates printed in sepia and some heightened with gum arabic, contemporary half russia, edges untrimmed, some minor foxing of title page, joints split (but boards held by cords), else an exceptionally fine fresh and tall untrimmed copy.

ESTC t147660 "This rare work ... fitly describes itself [in its title]. The coloured plates and figures are well executed" [Casey Wood]. The first edition, which is of very great rarity, was published in 10 parts, 1776-92, under the title Various Subjects of Natural History wherein are delineated Birds, Animals, & many Curious Plants. This original edition was supplied with only 10 leaves of text and, according to B. B. Woodward in his article on Shaw in Rees' New Encyclopaedia, vol.32, this lack of descriptive matter proved a drawback. Shaw was therefore called upon to provide adequate text and the plates were reissued under the new title. This new edition was further distinguished by attractive typography - the title-page, laid out by Bensley, being particularly handsome. John Frederick Miller (fl. 1772–1796) was the eldest son of Johann S. Muller (Miller) who had been a leading artist and engraver of natural history subjects "and it was probably through the elder Miller's acquaintance with Joseph Banks that John Frederick was taken into Banks's employment. He drew many of the artefacts collected on James Cook's Endeavour voyage of 1768–71 and both [he and his brother] were to have accompanied Banks on Cook's second voyage. When that plan foundered, John Frederick accompanied Banks on his travels to the Orkneys, Hebrides, and Iceland in 1772; his drawings are now in the Natural History Museum, London" [O.D.N.B.]. The connection with Banks would have given him access to extensive collections of birds and animals. There is some evidence that the colouring, as well as the etching, of the plates was executed by Miller himself. Shaw (1751–1813), who wrote extensively on natural history, was a founder of the Linnean Society of London. At the time of publication of this work he had been Assistant Keeper of Natural History at the British Museum for 5 years and in 1807 was appointed Keeper. The collation of this copy agrees with that given by Casey Wood and for the Library of Congress copy. Some copies are reported with [a maximum] 10 leaves of tables of Linnean classifications (indices) bound in at the rear. The British Library has a copy in each state. These extra leaves do not however appear to be an integral part of the book and, without having examined the British Library copies of both editions to finally confirm this, we can be virtually certain from the available evidence that these 10 leaves are those issued by Miller for the first edition where each 6 successive plates were accompanied by a single leaf of text. Their absence then leaves the second edition in no way incomplete. The book was reissued, without changing the date on its title page, at least once in the early nineteenth century. These reissues, detectable by the paper's watermark (eg. 1823), while still very beautiful books are markedly inferior to the 1796 issue offered here. The reissue appears not to be anywhere documented but is known in knowledgeable book-trade circles. On offer here is a splendid copy of the eighteenth century issue. CASEY WOOD Introduction to Literature of Vertebrate Zoology, p.465 SITWELL & BUCHANAN Fine Bird Books, p.94 NISSEN,Claus Die Zoologishe / Botanische Buchillus., IVB, 638 STAFLEU Taxonomic Literature, TL2 6033 LYSAGHT The Book of Birds: Five Centuries of Bird Illustration 100 ZIMMER Catalogue of Edw. Ayer Ornithological Library, p.585 BRITTEN Journal of Botany: v.51, p.255 1913; v.57, p.353 (1919) SHERBORN, C. D. & IREDALE, T Ibis; ser.II. v.3, p.302-9 (1921) LYSAGHT, A. Bulletin British Mus.(NH) hist. Ser.1, (1959) p.263,344


Offered by P & B Rowan