VICTORIA REGIA; or The Great Water Lily of America. With a brief account of its Discovery and Introduction into Cultivation: with Illustrations by William Sharp, from Specimens Grown at Salem, Massachusetts, U. S. A.
Boston: Printed and published for the author, 1854. 20 1/2 x 26 1/2. 16 pages + one-page index + 6 full page chromolithographs. Recent boards with linen spine; facsimile of original title label on upper cover. The contents have been professionally conserved with the paper de-acidified, fore edges strengthened, and each leaf hinged on linen. Two closed tears have been repaired; there is a date (Dec 1916) stamped in the gutter of the dedication page. Very good copy of a beautiful and brilliant work, important in the history of American color printing. Item #12893
The plates are "printed in colors with a delicacy of execution and technical brilliance never before achieved in the United States" (Reese). Drawn on stone and printed by William Sharp, they are the earliest example in the U. S. of large scale color printing. The success of Sharp's work is due in part to the fact that the five plates he designed were specifically intended to be printed by chromolithography. Most other practitioners of that time were just reproducing existing works of art. One chromolithograph is from a drawing by Allen.
William Sharp emigrated to Boston from England in the late 1830s and produced the first chromolithograph in the States in 1840. Twyman calls Sharp's Victoria Regia "spectacular chromolithographs with bold crayon hatching." He posits that Sharp may have learned about chromolithography while working with Hullmandel.
This large format reflects the extraordinary size of the lily. Leaves grow several inches a day until they reach up to 6 feet long, and are strong enough to support the weight of a child. The flowers are 12 to 17 inches in diameter. Allen's text provides a history of the cultivation of the lily, which was introduced into England after being discovered on the Amazon in the 1830s. Victoria had recently become queen and the lily was named in her honor. Allen's lily was given to him by Caleb Cope, to whom the book is dedicated. Cope, president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, was the first American to cultivate this lily.
Bennett p. 2, Marzio Democratic Art pages 18, 215, 279-80; Reese p. 19; Twyman, The History of Chromolithography pages 174, 363, 379. Jay Last, The Color Explosion p. 143.