First edition, with interesting provenance, of William Curtis’s magisterial survey of the flora of London and the southern counties of England. It was the earliest English flora illustrated with coloured plates to be in any way approaching comprehensive.
This copy with the catalogue of plants in the environs of Settle, the general observations on grasses, and the indices to the fascicules, often lacking.
The work, intended to portray all the native plants within a ten-mile radius of London, was issued irregularly in 75 numbers between May 1775 and 1798. However, Curtis’s ambitious enterprise received little encouragement, and was cut short for lack of subscriptions. According to Henrey’s account, no more than 300 of any single number are believed to have been printed.
Curtis’s reputation as a botanist was such that he was made the praefectus horti (or director) of the Society of Apothecaries at the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1772. The following year he established a botanical garden for the cultivation and study of native British plants at Bermondsey. This garden was to move twice: first to Lambeth Marsh and later Brompton. He cultivated some 6,000 species from all over the world in his garden, including medicinal and culinary herbs, English wild flowers, trees and shrubs. For an annual subscription of a guinea patrons could visit Curtis’s garden and attend the lectures he gave there, and for an extra guinea a year they could also have a share in the plants and seeds from the garden.
2 volumes, folio (46 x 27 cm). Engraved vignette on title-page, 435 (on 432) hand-coloured plates after Sydenham Edwards, William Kilburn, James Sowerby and others, dedication leaves and 1 leaf of subscribers in vol. I. (upper outer corner of one text leaf (for Veronica Montana. Mountain Speedwell, the seventh plate) in vol.II torn and repaired with text supplied in manuscript, some leaves very lightly browned, a few instances of offsetting). Nineteenth century brown half morocco gilt over red pebble-grained cloth sides,
Provenance: contemporary manuscript corrections to the subscribers list and manuscript numbering on plates – Frederick du Cane Godman (bookplates). Godman (1834-1919) was an English lepidopterist, entomologist and ornithologist. He was one of the twenty founding members of the British Ornithologists’ Union. Along with Osbert Salvin, he is remembered for studying the fauna and flora of Central America. He lived at South Lodge, Horsham, and had a magnificent garden.
Cleveland, Herbal 532; Dunthorne 87; Great Flower Books (1990) p. 88; Henrey 595; Hunt 650; Nissen, BBI 439; Pritzel 2004; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 1286.
Stock ID: 100239