The Botanical Magazine; or, Flower-Garden Displayed…. William CURTIS.
The Botanical Magazine; or, Flower-Garden Displayed…
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The Botanical Magazine; or, Flower-Garden Displayed…

London: Stephen Couchman, 1793-1806.

Octavo; a run of the first 24 volumes covering the years 1793-1806 (bound in 12 volumes); portrait frontispiece and 966 hand-coloured engravings, some folding; bound in handsome and original full tan calf, gilt.

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Important early botanical journal with beautiful hand coloured engravings

An excellent unbroken run covering the early and best best years of "the oldest scientific periodical of its kind with coloured illustrations in the world… In the beauty of production and high standard of its contribution it can claim a unique place" (Patrick Synge, Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, 1948). Most of the early volumes were illustrated by James Sowerby and Sydenham Edwards.

An excellent unbroken run covering the early and best best years of "the oldest scientific periodical of its kind with coloured illustrations in the world… In the beauty of production and high standard of its contribution it can claim a unique place" (Patrick Synge, Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, 1948). Most of the early volumes were illustrated by James Sowerby and Sydenham Edwards.

This set covers the earliest period of recording for the first time the botany of the Pacific region newly explored by European expeditions including the three voyages made by James Cook. The first, and most of the second era of the magazine relate to the editorships of William Curtis himself (vols. I-XVI) and then his successor Dr. John Sims. The work is unmatched for information on the contemporary gardening scene, because both Curtis and Sims understood the close relationship between gardeners and nurserymen, and wanted to advertise the new plants as they became available. The work describes and illustrates plants from all over the globe, including hundreds from the Cape (due to the indefatigable Francis Masson), as well as the Americas and south-east Asia; importantly for Australian botany this set includes a great many finely illustrated Australian specimens with comprehensive classifications.

William Curtis (1746-1799) was an important botanist of his day and a member of the Linnean Society. An initial interest in entomology saw him publish his early collectors' guide, Instructions for Collecting and Preserving Insects (1771), but he soon turned to botany, first working at the Chelsea Physic Garden, and later at Bermondsey and the London Botanic Garden. John Sims (1749-1831) was a physician and botanist, connected to the large network of Quakers in England. A member of both the Linnean Society and the Royal Society, he was ideally placed to take over the Botanical Magazine after the death of Curtis.

The listing of Australian plants includes (to name just two of the dozens of entries): Melaleuca citrina (crimson bottlebrush) "though many species of this genus have been raised from seeds, bought within the first few years from the South Seas where they are said to be very numerous, this is, we believe, the only one that as yet has flowered in this country… the root of which has been sent from Botany Bay flowered at the end of summer 1793 at the garden of Thomas Dawson, Viscount Cremorne…" (vol. 7, plate 260, April 1794); Platylobium formosum (large flowered flat pea) "all the plants of this family as yet known are natives of New Holland; the genus derives its name from the breadth of its pod or seed vessel… the seeds of this plant having been among the first of those imported from Botany Bay…" (vol. 14, plate 469, 1 February 1800).

Although the beautifully executed and hand coloured illustrations are the glory of the work, the notes on contemporary gardens and nurseries provide added interest, revealing a complex network of exotic gardens, with famous names such as Lee and Kennedy of Hammersmith and Loddiges of Hackney, as well as lesser lights such as Whitley, Brame & Milne of Fulham, or Grimwood & Wyke of Kensington. It would be possible to draw a remarkable sketch of this network based on a close reading of the Botanical Magazine alone, a sketch which would help reveal important details of a genteel trade in the process of becoming a serious business.

Founded in 1787, the Magazine is still being issued (now as Curtis's Botanical Magazine). From its embryonic period of the 1790s through to the early nineteenth century it is celebrated as an outstanding and beautifully illustrated record of the botanical world including the earliest such discoveries in the southern New World.

Provenance: With the armorial bookplate in each volume of George Innes (1760-1842), Assistant Master at Rugby School, 1783-1792, Master of King Henry VIII's School, Warwick, 1792-1842, and Rector of Hilperton, Wiltshire, 1798-1842. Innes's library was sold in London by Puttick and Simpson in 1851. Later owned by Jane Elizabeth Metford (1831-1907), Halesleigh, Somerset, with her ownership inscription in volume one.

Henrey, 473; Nissen BBI, 2350; Pritzel, 2007.

Condition Report: A little light spotting otherwise very good.

Price (AUD): $32,000.00

US$23,270.02   Other currencies

Ref: #5000254

Condition Report