Boston: L. Prang & Company, 1878-79.
First Edition. Hardcover. Very good. Two volumes, comprising the complete first series Volume I: ix, 192; Volume II: v, 200, with at total of 96 chromolithograph plates (48 in each volume). 10.5" x 7", bound in full leather with decoration stamped in blind and gilt, raised bands, gilt inner dentelles, all edges gilt. Each volume stamped in gilt on the front board with a short title and the name Mary Dow. A brief pencil inscription on the front flyleaf of Volume II reveals this to be Mary Amelia Dow of Carson City, Nevada, who received these volumes as a gift on her 21st birthday (January 22, 1881). Both volumes scuffed at corners and along the joints, slight variation in the color of the leather between the two volumes, typical offsetting from the plates to facing pages, but overall a sound and attractive set. Thomas Meehan (1826-1901) was a British-born nurseryman who moved to Philadelphia in 1848 and rose to prominence as a popularizer of horticultural knowledge and appreciation in the United States. His first book, the American Handbook of Ornamental Tree, was published in 1853. In 1876, he created an arboretum of over 700 trees for the Centennial International Exhibition that was notable not only for its size, but for the large number of native species it included. Native Flowers and Ferns of the United States, which eventually ran to four volumes, was originally conceived as a scientific study, but then Meehan decided it was more worthwhile to engage a larger, popular audience. Each species is engagingly described, with detail on both its natural characteristics and the history of its discovery and/or use by humans. And, of course, each species is shown in vivid detail in illustrations produced by one of the most accomplished color printers in the United States.