North American Herpetology; or A Description of the Reptiles Inhabiting the United States, in five volumes (Second edition)

By Holbrook, John Edwards

SKU# 19759

$ 35,000.00

Pp. xv, 17-152; vi, 9-142; ii, 3-128; vi, 7-136; vi, 5-118, (1, errata); with 147 hand-colored plates. Publisher’s original one-half dark red leather, spine with four raised bands, lettered in gilt in two compartments, over newer marbled boards, square 4to (11 3/4 x 10 1/2 inches). John Edwards Holbrook (1796–1871) was an American physician, zoologist, herpetologist, and naturalist. He is considered the Father of American Herpetology. According to Kraig Adler (History, p. 33), John Holbrook’s scientific reputation rests on his books “North American Herpetology” (first edition in four volumes, 1836-1840, second edition in five volumes, 1842, and “Ichthyology of South Carolina” (first edition, 1855-1857). In his “Herpetology,” which he began in the mid-1820s, Holbrook described and illustrated every American species, which at the time meant primarily east of the Mississippi River (Adler, History, p. 33). Holbrook also researched the literature to determine the correct scientific names to be used, thus helping to stabilize the nomenclature. Perhaps the outstanding feature of his “Herpetology,” was the quality of the illustrations. Adler (p. 33) states that Holbrook was obsessed with providing scientifically accurate and life-like drawings. He employed as many as 17 artists to achieve this accuracy (p. 33). Holbrook also obtained live specimens of nearly all species to help the artists to accurate depicts the color and morphology. During the final production of the first edition, Holbrook became so dissatisfied with the quality of the illustrations that he abandoned its completion and instead issued a second edition in 1842. This second edition (offered here) was rearranged to follow the current taxonomy of the day. The plate number was increased to 147 scientifically accurate hand-colored plates. No subsequent revisions were made to this work. Aside from a three-page list of the amphibians and reptiles of Georgia published in 1849, this second edition of “Herpetology” represents Holbrook’s final contribution to the field of herpetology. According to Sabin (32454), this work is “worthy of a place in the library of the naturalists by the side of Audubon and Wilson.” Faint blind stamp of the ‘Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge’ on the outer top corner of the title page of each volume. Volume 3 has the signature of Harriott Pinckney Holbrook along the top edge of the title page. She is a descendant of John Edward Holbrook’s brother. Very scarce work especially in such nice condition.


J. Dobson
Publisher Place Philadelphia
Date Published 1842
Date Published Estimated No
Edition Second edition
Number of Volumes 1
Condition Very good
Condition Description Some occasional foxing to the text and to the title page of volume 5, fraying to the outer edge of plate 1 in volume 2, the fine hand-colored plates are bright and clean, a tight copy in very good condition.
Limited Edition