Asplenium scolopendrium [Fern - from the Herbier de la France]
Paris, published by the author/artist, 1784. 4to-sized (29.6 x 20.3 cm). Single leaf, early colour printing. Printed surface 22.6 x 17.0 cm.
This fine illustration of the hart's tongue fern ( Asplenium scolopenftium) is an early example of fine colour printing (Stafleu and Cowan, I, p. 404: "it is one of the first colour printed botanical works"). It was originally published as plate 167 of Pierre Buillard's Herbier de la France, ou Collection complette des Plantes Indigènes de ce Royaume; avec leurs détails anatomiques, leurs propriétés, et leurs usages en Médecine. "This fern was used in the 1800s as a medicinal plant in folk medicine as a spleen tonic and for other uses" (Wikipedia, quoting the famous British botanist John Hill). The colour printing, without retouching by hand, is in the Le Blon-Gauthier method, using a separate plate for each colour. A technique rarely employed for botanical books. "Bulliard was his own printer. He mixed coloured inks with great delicacy and, in general, accuracy, and inked his tint plates with minute attention to detail. Light soiling and discolouring of the top and right margin, a few tiny spots, otherwise very good, with a strong, even impression. Rare. A fine plate on strong paper. Stafleu and Cowan, 905.