Francois Andre Michaux
FRANCOIS-ANDRE MICHAUX, French (1770-1855)
Michaux, a botanist, silviculturist and explorer is known for his seminal catalog of American trees, Histoire des Arbes forestiers del'Amerique or The North American Sylva.
Michaux was born near Versailles, in 1770, the son of famed botanist André Michaux. Father and son moved to the United States in 1785 to establish a botanical nursery to grow trees for shipment to France; in 1787, François, who had trained under André, assumed primary responsibility for managing a second nursery near Charleston, S.C. During this time, Michaux who was aided by Thomas Jefferson in his scientific pursuits also explored the Tennessee Valley, Florida and the Bahamas for further study of regional botany, a pattern which would continue throughout his career.
Michaux's extensive explorations, combined with the discoveries of his father, resulted in the publication of Histoire des arbres forestiers de l'Amérique septentrionale, or, The North American Sylva, the most important 19th century work on American trees The exquisite stipple engraved copper plates were beautifully executed by Pierre-Joseph Redouté, Henri Redouté and Pancrace Bess, The North American Sylva was published first in French, and then in English. It rapidly gained a broad, enthusiastic audience, becoming an important scientific resource in the study of American forestry.
The plates we have for sale at the gallery are from the third issue of the important work and include plates from the supplement by Thomas Nuttall which added many western and Pacific coast species overlooked in the earliest printing. Thomas Nuttall the noted English botanist, zoologist and who was to become the curator of the botanical gardens at Harvard University.
After numerous trips between North America and his native France, Michaux remained in Europe to become the administrator of an experimental estate owned by the Société Centrale de l'Agriculture. He was also made a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1809, and was honored with the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
François André Michaux died on October 23, 1855