ELWES, John Henry (1846-1922). A Monograph of the Genus Lilium. London: Taylor & Francis, [1877]-1880.

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Folio (22 x 15 2/8 inches). 48 fine hand-colored lithographic plates, by W.H.Fitch, mounted albumen photograph by Bourne of a Himalayan scene, signed in the negative, and a colored map showing the distribution of the species described. Contemporary half brown morocco gilt, original printed stiff paper wrappers bound in (extremities scuffed).


Provenance: with the engraved armorial bookplate of Crewe Hall on the front paste-down.

First edition, limited issue, one of 250 copies.

The work was issued in 3 stages: the "Monograph", as here, between 1877 and 1880 with 48 plates by Fitch; then the first of seven parts of a "Supplement" by A.Grove and A.D.Cotton between 1933 and 1940 with 30 plates by Lilian Snelling; and finally, parts VIII and IX by W.B.Turrill between 1960 and 1962 with plates by Margaret Stones.

Elwes, a traveller, collector, and particularly as a plantsman. "He knew what to collect, was determined in his travels to find it, was highly observant in describing the geographical distribution of what he found, and was particularly skilled in propagating specimens he brought back" (Balfour and Baigent). "He devoted his life to natural history and travel. His original interest was in ornithology and it was in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society (1873) that his paper on 'The geographical distribution of Asiatic birds' was published. This was the result of a visit in 1871 to Sikkim and, illegally, to Tibet, and was important in establishing that the Himalayan region was part of the same biogeographical region as China. Elwes attributed his election in 1897 to the Royal Society to this paper. In 1880 he produced his folio "Monograph of the Genus Lilium", which remains an authoritative work on that subject; although the work was issued under Elwes's name, the strictly botanical parts of the work were done by J. G. Baker" (F. R. S. Balfour, rev. Elizabeth Baigent for DNB). His work includes nearly all of the lilies then known in cultivation. Nissen BBI 594; Great Flower Books p.56; Stafleu & Cowan 1664. Catalogued by Kate Hunter