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Gould, Dr. Augusts Addison (1805-1866)
Autograph Note (identified on verso as “Gould to Delarue”) Boston, 1848

One page, octavo, neatly inscribed in ink, very good.

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The note is unsigned and undated, but, from historical evidence, February 1848, on verso of a printed document of the Massachusetts Medical Society, in which both Gould and his friend Dr. Benjamin Cotting – who hand-carried this note to Paris – were active members. To French artist J. Delarue:

“I have just received the proofs of plates iii, iv, vii, viii… and also the proofs of woodcuts forwarded in January …I have sent the proofs to Philad. For Dr. Leidy’s examination. I am happy to say he is about visiting Paris and will be able to superintend the completion and lettering of the plates in person. He will also fill up pl. 16 and will probably add one or two more, so that you had better commence no. 17 on a double plate. Perhaps he will not return the proofs until he visits you … in May. My friend, Dr. Cotting, the bearer, will inquire of you respecting the state of the work, and will write to me respecting it. Whenever the coloring is completed, I should like to have you send the engravings.”

A book illustrator little-known in America, Delarue’s lithograph plates for a French “Natural History of Mollusks” must have won him a commission from Augustus Gould, a Boston expert in Conchology, the scientific study of mollusk and sea shells. Gould was preparing for publication a massive tome: Terrestrial Air-Breathing Mollusks of the United States”, by Dr. Amos Binney, founder of the Boston Society of Natural History, who had died leaving his manuscript in a chaotic state. Gould had expected to have the book finished the year he wrote this note; in fact, it would not be published for another three years, a “perplexing delay”, he later explained, partly due to the “difficulty of procuring suitable artists”. One who was most suitable was 27 year old Dr. Joseph Leidy, described by a biographer as “the man who knew everything”, another physician who had abandoned medicine to pursue scientific research. Leidy was also about to cross the Atlantic, to spend much of 1848 seeing the start of a French revolution and meeting men like Charles Darwin. Though his chief interests were in Zoology and Paleontology, Leidy was also a Conchologist and a skillful artist, and the final Gould-Binney book would be graced by many of his illustrations among the 106 plates that would appear in the 5 volume work. An important historical document of early American science and book production.                                          

American National Biography, volume 9 pp., 334-336; Dictionary of Scientific Biography, volume V, pp., 477-479