ROMANS, BERNARD. 1741-1784.
A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida; Containing An Account of the natural Produce of all the Southern Part of British America, in the three Kingdoms of Nature, particularly the Animal and Vegetable.... New York: Printed for the Author, 1775.
Volume 1 (all published). 4, viii, 175, 178-342, , lxxxix, [1 blank], [2 errata], [1 ad] pp. Engraved frontispiece, dedication leaf, 6 engraved plates and 3 engraved maps, all by the author. 8vo (180 x 103 mm). Period sheep. Lacking folding table of Georgia exports, browned, some foxing, advertisement leaf well-worn with loss of several words, scattered stains and surface wear, 2A gathering coming loose, a few marginal chips, binding well-worn with upper cover detached.
FIRST EDITION OF A SUPERLATIVE FLORIDA RARITY, SELF-PUBLISHED, WITH AMERICAN ENGRAVINGS. Bernard Romans lived in Florida for many years and his account, though somewhat prolix, "contains much minute and well-arranged information" (Church). Romans claimed to have been the first surveyor in Florida, where he lived near St. Augustine. He is particularly thorough in his description of Native Americans of the South. The illustrations present are: an allegorical frontispiece of the Mississippi, "Avena aquatica Sylvestris" (a botanical rendering of marsh oats), "Characteristick Chicasaw head," "Characteristick Chactan Busts," a Chactaw funeral platform, "Characteristick head of a Creek War Chief," Indian hieroglyphic paintings, plans of the "Entrances of Tampa Bay," "Pensacola Bay," and "Mobile Bay."
From the title-page and the advertisements it is evident that Romans intended his work to be published in 2 volumes with 12 plates and 2 whole-sheet maps distributed across the whole. However, Romans' unedited and ever-expanding text, and the loss of a copper plate en route from the engraver up the Hudson, meant that the second volume was never published. The distribution of plates in the first edition is a matter of some bibliographical debate. The second edition re-printed all 6 plates (but not the maps) and plates were frequently supplied from the second edition to the first. In the present copy 5 of the 6 plates are on varying paper and somewhat shorter. The interesting engravings are specimens of early Continental intaglio printing, drawn and etched by Romans himself. This copy is the only one to appear at auction since the Streeter sale. Church 1124; Clark I:302; Evans 14440; Howes R426 ("dd"); Sabin 72992; Servies 522; Streeter sale 1186.
Provenance: inkstamp of George A. Roberts on inside cover; sold by John B. Stetson at Parke-Bernet, February 25-26, 1953, lot 467 to Frank T. Siebert.
Acquisition: Siebert sale, Sotheby's New York, Oct 28, 1999, lot 586, $63,000.