This rare folio, hand-colored lithograph is from Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg and Wilhelm Friedrich Hemprich’s Symbolae physicae seu icones et descriptiones avium quae ex itinere Africam Borealem et Asiam Occidentalem … The work was published in Berlin in 1829 by Georgii Reimeri. The lithograph is a beautiful illustration from Ehrenberg and Hemprich’s travels in Africa and the Middle East.
Ehrenberg was considered a top authority on microbial life in the 19th century. When Charles Darwin wanted some wind-borne dust from HMS Beagle analyzed for the possible presence of microscopic life, it was Ehrenberg to whom he chose to send his specimens (and Ehrenberg did indeed find infusoria in Darwins samples).
The German naturalist and explorers Wilhelm Hemprich and Gottfried Ehrenberg served as naturalists on a primarily archaeological expedition to Egypt, led by Prussian General von Minutoli. Sponsored by the Berlin Academy, in March 1821 they separated from the main party and travelled up the river Nile to Dongola, the capital of Nubia. They spent the next two years studying the natural history of that part of Egypt before sailing across the Gulf of Suez to El Sur on the south-west coast of the Sinai peninsula, remaining there for nine months. In 1824 they visited Lebanon, travelling inland from Beirut to the summit of the Jebel Liban and making their base at Bcharre, before returning to Egypt. In November they set off again along the coasts of the Red Sea, calling at various ports including Jidda. They eventually arrived in the Eritrean port of Massawa, their intention being to visit the highlands of Abyssinia. Unfortunately Hemprich died in Massawa of fever, and Ehrenberg buried him on the island of Toalul. Ehrenberg travelled back to Europe, and in 1828 began the publication of the present work. The specimens collected by the expedition were deposited at the Berlin Museum and included 46,000 botanical specimens and 34,000 animal specimens.
BM(NH) II, p.515; Stafleu & Cowan 1636; Wood p. 330