WIGHT, ROBERT. 1796-1872.
Illustrations of Indian Botany; or Figures Illustrative of each of the Natural Orders of Indian Plants. Madras: J.B. Pharoah for the Author, -1840.
Volume 1 only (of 2). 4to (275 x 205 mm). , xxii, ii, 215 pp. Tipped-in errata slip, and slip apologizing to subscribers. 101 hand-colored lithographed plates after Rungia (2 of which are folding), 2 duplicate plates which are uncolored, 1 further uncolored plate. Period calf. Title creased, scattered toning and occasional faint stains, 2 plates springing, upper cover detached, rubbed.
A rare Madras-printed botanical, issued in parts by subscription. Wight arrived in India in 1819 to serve as assistant-surgeon with an infantry regiment stationed in Madras. He employed local people to make collections of plants, a number of which were dispatched to Britain. In 1826, Wight became superintendent of the Madras Botanical Garden and began to employ local artists to record the flora and sylva of the area. His work was championed by William Hooker who in 1830 published a few parts of an early version of the present work in his Botanical Miscellany.
Wight later took the extraordinary step of publishing his work in India, encouraged by the Madras Government's subscription for 50 copies. "It is ... to be borne in mind that this being the first volume of the kind that ever issued from the Madras press; an establishment had to be formed expressly for itself: that colours of the best qualities are not to be had at any cost, and lastly, that until the arrival of a fresh supply of paper for to [sic] the publication of the 11th number, our material was much deteriorated by age and even so far damaged as to render the use of superior colours almost nugatory" (Preface). At one point, Wight's colorists went on strike. A second volume was printed in Madras a decade later, by a different printer. Nissen BBI 2141.