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PLENCK, Joseph Jakob von (Plenk, 1738-1807)

Icones plantarum medicinalium secundum systema Linnæi digestarum, cum enumeratione virium et usus medici, chirurgici atque diætetici.
Volumes I, III and V (of I-VIII).
Vienna, Rudolph Græffer & Soc., 1788-1792.

A splendidly produced work being one of the most imposing publications on medicinal plants ever produced. It was published in eight volumes with 758 hand-coloured engraved plates, some of which are large folding, but very few copies are complete. Our set consists of three of the volumes only, each with 100 plates and including the first volume with its beautiful engraved title-leaf with hand-coloured floral border. Volume VIII, consisting of only two parts with 58 plates, is of utmost rarity and was published after the author’s death in 1812. Plenck’s Icones plantarum medicinalium belongs to the highlights of the famous Viennese school of botanical illustration that flourished at the end of the eighteenth century, the best known member of which was Nicolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1727–1817), whose impressive production may have inspired Plenck, whose plates are in the Jacquin style, but no artist nor engraver is mentioned. Indeed, some of the plates are drawn after Jacquin, but the majority are new, being native European plants never depicted by Jacquin. The plates are ”delightful and very decorative in treatment” (Blunt). The descriptive text is written in Latin and German. The Austrian physician Joseph Plenck, possessor of an encyclopedic mind, brought a multitude of knowledge and talents to every field he investigated. He is usually considered a member of the Vienna School of Medicine. So extensive were his talents that at one time or another he was professor of chemistry, botany, surgery, anatomy, and obstetrics. He is generally regarded as the founder of systematic dermatology in his Doctrina de morbis cutaneis (1776), in which he followed the method of Linnaeus in classifying diseases of the skin.

Collation: Centuria I. (1788): pp (2) engraved title with hand-coloured floral border, (4) dedication to Joseph II, (2) preface, (4) index, 62, (2) index. With 100 hand-coloured engraved plates (some folding), all with protective tissue guards, numbered 1-100. Centuria III. (1790): pp (2) title, 3-74, (2). With 100 hand-coloured engraved plates (some folding). numbered 201-300. Centuria: V. (1792): pp (2) title, 3-84, (2). With 100 hand-coloured engraved plates (some folding), numbered 401-500.

Binding: Three volumes in contemporary half calf with marbled boards.

Provenance: Engraved bookplate with a coat-of-arms with crown in which there is a unicorn, and also three smaller versions of the same unicorn in the centre of the arms. Enl. SLS (kassavalvet)- Gåva från Gustaf Grönbergers sterbhus.

References: Stafleu & Cowan 8057; Blunt, p 158; Nissen BBI, 1536; Pritzel 7201; Dunthorne 225.

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