The most magnificent of nurserymen’s catalogues.
In the early eighteenth century, the most important trade association for the purchase, sale, and exchange of plants and seeds was the Society of Gardeners. Its members would bring specimens to monthly meetings at a coffee-house in Chelsea for discussion and to standardise plant names. For reference purposes a selection of the plants might be drawn. This, combined with the wishes of clients to have notes on cultivation, led to the evolution of illustrated catalogues, often handsomely produced.
Of all the publications produced by members of the Society of Gardeners, that of Robert Furber (circa 1674-1756) displayed the most originality. His nursery, in Kensington Road near Hyde Park, was extremely successful, and having already published a couple of modest lists, he produced the present, extravagant catalogue illustrated in the grand manner.
Rather than producing a conventional brochure, Furber engaged the Flemish artist, Pieter Casteels (1684-1749), resident in London and well-known for his still-life compositions, to execute 12 portrayals of flowers bunched in ornamental vases and urns, one for each month of the year. Each presented a baroque bouquet of more than thirty different flowers, all obtainable from the Furber nursery. Casteels completed his commission by September 1731, upon which subscribers were reminded to send the balance of their subscription. A thirteenth plate with the subscribers’ names within a floral border was produced in March 1732 dedicated to Frederick, Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, and the 435 subscribers. Sets of the plates were made available to non-subscribers at one pound five shillings plain, or two pounds twelve shillings and six pence coloured. A number against every flower, identified in a key at the bottom of the plate, was used by customers when ordering.
Furber’s catalogue was produced to appeal to florists, and, reflecting the taste of the day, there are 26 varieties of auricula, and nineteen of the anenome. Hyacinth, tulip, and ranunculas are also well represented.
The catalogue was a huge success, and the images were used as the basis for later engravings by print makers such as Robert Sayer and John Overton, as well being used in embroidery and other decorative arts.
Large folio (58.7 x 46 cm), hand-coloured engraved list of subscribers within a floral border serving as title-page, 12 hand-coloured plates designed by Pieter Casteels and engraved by H. Fletcher showing flower arrangements, interleaved with blanks; subscribers’ list slightly dust-soiled and strengthened at margin on verso, “January” plate slightly stained, a few small unobtrusive marginal repairs to interleaved blank leaves, some light spotting predominantly marginal, occasional marginal pencil marks and the small letters “S-M” written in ink in one margin, around 2 cm square area of final plate rubbed away.
19th century half calf with marbled sides, covers slightly rubbed, neatly rebacked and corners neatly repaired.
Dunthorne 113; Henrey 733; Hermitage Library, A Treasury of Books, 163; Nissen 674.
Stock ID: 89261