This beautiful and rare folio (489mm x 362mm) edition of the Rhododendrons of Sikkim Himalaya, 1849, contains 43 hand coloured lithographs of the rhododendrons collected by Joseph Dalton Hooker during his expedition 1847-1851 to the Himalayas.
At that time Sikkim was an independent kingdom and is now a state of India. Based in Darjeeling (elevation 7,200 feet) Hooker discovered 25 new rhododendrons on his expedition. While in the field - and "on the spot" as it was commonly known at the time - and under sometimes very trying conditions, he prepared accurate water colour sketches which were sent back to England where his father, Sir W J Hooker, arranged for the leading artist/ lithographer Walter Hood Fitch to prepare the finished plates and for publication. These were issued in parts the first being issued before Joseph returned home. (Sir William Jackson Hooker KH DCL FRS FLS etc. was the first official director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.)
Joseph Dalton Hooker developed a keen interest in plants at an early age from his father Sir William Hooker. However Joseph started his career as a surgeon in the navy and was able to use this as a way of pursuing his botanical interests at ports of call. For example he was assistant surgeon on the Ross expedition to the Antarctic and as a result was able to carry out extensive collecting in the Pacific and particularly in New Zealand.
After returning from the Antarctic expedition he gained a government grant to travel to India and Himalayas and from this was able to plan his expedition to Sikkim collecting rhododendrons in particular. The mountains of the eastern Himalayas of Sikkim were previously closed to foreigners and Hooker experienced many trials as he crossed the thickly forested rugged mountain terrain. He was even briefly imprisoned by the Rajah at one time.
Joseph Dalton Hooker is said by some to be the greatest botanist of the 19th century establishing a system of botanical classification widely used until superseded by the modern genetics based system. He collected over 7,000 specimens in the Himalayas and published several books on the subject. He was Charles Darwin's closest friend and the founder of geographical botany, transforming the Royal Botanic Gardens from a pleasure park into a scientific institution being Director 1865-1885.
rgsp 583.620954 H783d