The first edition of Forster’s exceedingly rare treatise on the breadfruit tree, using observations gathered during the author’s voyage with Captain Cook. This little monograph was published in Kassel in 1784 where Forster was appointed professor of natural science. Being printed for private distribution, this original separate issue was limited to a small print run and is therefore exceedingly rare. It was published subsequently in Vienna in the Magazin für Wissenschaften und Litteratur (1785) and within Forster’s Kleine Schriften (1803). Nowadays it is difficult to understand the importance of the breadfruit in the eighteenth century, but this fruiting tree, originating in the South Pacific, was seen by Sir Joseph Banks and others as the source of a high-energy food source for slaves in the sugar-producing colonies of the British West Indies. This prompted calls by colonial administrators and plantation owners for the plant to be brought to the Caribbean, and shortly afterwards, in December 1878, Bligh was despatched in HMS Bounty to bring back breadfruit plants from Tahiti. The ship’s great cabin and some of the aft deck were converted to take 1015 specimens, as can be seen from Dodd’s print of the mutiny, resulting in very cramped quarters for the officers and crew, which increased tensions on board.
First edition. Small 4to (20 x 16.5 cm), [ii], 48 pp., 2 engraved plates, contemporary (original ?) pale blue silk-covered boards, gilt borders and centre-device, small stain to upper cover, spine mostly perished, a lovely example of a fragile, rare, and beautiful work. Preserved in a modern blue morocco-backed book-form box.[Du Rietz, 447 (for Kleine Schriften); Pritzel, 2974; not traced in Sabin, Nissen, Holmes, Howes, Hill, or Streeter.]