Stuttgart and Tübingen, J. C. Gotta 1845-1862; Stuttgart, Krais & Hoffmann, 1851. Five text volumes and atlas in six. Text: 8vo (22.5 x 13.3 cm) 3644 pp. [I (1845): xvi, 493; II (1847): 544; III (1850): 644; IV (1858): 650; V (1862): 1297]; uniform contemporary half calf over marbled boards. Spines with gilt ornamental bands and title. Atlas: oblong folio (28.5 x 34.5 cm). Two title pages, [i], 136 pp.; 43 finely engraved and hand-coloured plates with maps, graphs, views, etc.). Blind half morocco over original iridescent boards with gilt title on the front board. All edges red.
One of the great 19th-century classics in science, written by the German explorer and polymath (geographer, geologist, botanist, zoologist, philosopher) Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). Alexander von Humboldt "resurrected the use of the word cosmos from the ancient Greek and assigned it to his multivolume treatise, Kosmos, in which he sought to unify diverse branches of scientific knowledge and culture. This important work also motivated a holistic perception of the universe as one interacting entity, which introduced concepts of ecology leading to ideas of environmentalism" (Wikipedia). According to Keller, Humboldt planned this work for 50 years and it is what he regarded as his magnum opus. The outlines of Humboldt's view of the universe, or in Humboldt's words "the picture of nature" are presented in the first volume and explored in detail in the third and fourth. The third volume focuses on astronomy and the fourth on geology. Later, a fifth volume was added, which is rare and seldom included, but present in this set. The fine, detailed atlas, produced by the German geographer and travel writer Traugott Bromme (1802-1866) was an authorized supplement. The atlas was thoroughly reviewed by Von Humboldt himself. It was published in two editions, viz., a Volksausgabe, and a more scientific edition (this copy). The far more common Volksausgabe has a much more limited text. Plate 6 is in first edition, and - unusually - also as "neue, nach A. v. Humboldt's Angabe revid. Tafel", indicating that this is a first edition, augmented with the corrected plate, not a later edition, which always lacked the original Plate 6. The plate order is complicated, also pointing to this being the earlier edition. Numbering is as follows: 1-27, 29-31, 28, 32, 34, 38-39, 41, 6 (replacement), 33, 40, 42, 35-37. The last three plates show panoramas. Light wear to extremities; scattered foxing to the text volumes, but less than usual. The atlas rebacked, text and plates clean. In all a very good, clean and unmarked set. PMM 320; Sabin, 8201; Sparrow, Milestones of Science, 106; Ward and Carozzi 1141.