London: Printed by W. Bulmer and Co. for George Nicol, 1796. Folio (488 x 340 mm). vii, 91 pp. 46 engraved plates on 45 sheets, all but two hand-coloured, later half calf gilt.
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST PUBLISHED WORK ON INDIAN SNAKES.
‘In 1781, after his younger brother Claud had been appointed administrator of Vizagapatam, Russell accompanied him to India, and in November 1785 he succeeded the Dane John Gerard Koenig as botanist to the East India Company in the Carnatic. In this capacity he made large collections of specimens and drawings of the plants, fishes, and reptiles of the country and he proposed to the governor of Madras in 1785 that the company’s medical officers and others should be officially requested to collect specimens and information concerning useful plants of the various districts of India. In 1787 he drew up a preliminary memoir on the poisonous snakes of the Coromandel coast, which was printed officially at Madras …
[In 1794] he wrote the preface to the Plants of the Coast of Coromandel by William Roxburgh, a sumptuous work published at the expense of the East India Company, and one outcome of his own recommendations made ten years before. In 1796 he published on the same scale, at the cost of the company, the first fascicle of his Account of Indian Serpents in folio, with forty-six plates, forty-four of which were the product of a huge collaborative enterprise in which Russell enlisted the help of other company servants. Russell’s Account also relied heavily on Indian knowledge, although he subjected local wisdom to the trial of experiment and his own observations’ (ODNB).