Flora Londinensis

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Flora Londinensis
Tormentilla officinalis (Sowerby).jpg
Tormentilla officinalis (Tormentil or Septfoil)
One of Sowerby's hand-coloured plates.
Author William Curtis
Illustrator James Sowerby, et al.
Country England
Series Six volumes
Subject Botany
Publisher William Curtis, London
Publication date
1777–1798
Media type Fascicles with plates
Followed by 'The Botanical Magazine'

Flora Londinensis is a book that described the flora found in the London region of the mid 18th century. The Flora was published by William Curtis in six large volumes. The descriptions of the plants included hand-coloured copperplate prints by botanical artists such as James Sowerby, Sydenham Edwards and William Kilburn.

The full title of the book is Flora Londinensis, or, Plates and descriptions of such plants as grow wild in the environs of London. The first volume was produced in 1777 and the final one, containing a title and an index, was published in 1798. A binary name is given for each species in the survey; common and other names are also ascribed for the general reader. The remarkable aspect of the volumes was their accessibility. Previous works on the flora of Britain had been intended for the audience of scientists, apothecaries, and the earlier herbalists. The appealing plates also provided a careful botanical detail which could assist in the identification of a species.

Curtis was praefectus horti (Director, Society of Apothecaries) at the Chelsea Physic Garden and a botanist with a broad knowledge of exotic species. However, Flora Londinensis was to cover the most familiar territory of its author. Curtis intended documenting the flowering species within a 10-mile radius of London, commissioning several painters cum illustrators to produce hand-coloured copper engravings to accompany the pages. He undertook writing descriptions, publishing, and sales of the volumes, producing six fascicles of twelve issues, each containing six plates. The final survey eventually came to include many species found in southern England and a few more besides.

Despite praise for the importance of the volumes, the work was not produced beyond 300 copies. Many other works were to be issued; the economics of producing a more affordable volume were yet to be refined. The publication by Curtis, The Botanical Magazine, was to be a greater financial success. Sowerby, who helped to publish the volumes and give over seventy of the plates, went on to produce natural history publications in a similar format.

The work was enlarged by William J. Hooker, who published an edition with his own text in 1817 and 1828. This enlargement was even more comprehensive, by including species from the other British Isles.

References[edit]

  • Hugh Cahill (2006-05-10). "Case 3: William Curtis and The Botanical Magazine". Nature observed: The work of the botanical artist. King's College London. Retrieved 2007-07-30. "Flora Londinensis is one of the most beautiful and important botanical publications of the eighteenth century." 
  • Hugh Cahill (2006-05-10). "The botanical publications of William Curtis - September 2005". Book of the Month. King's College London. Retrieved 2007-07-30. "which was intended, as its name suggests, to include all the wild flowers that grew within a ten mile radius of London. However, it was more comprehensive than that and covered most of the common flowers of southern England," 
  • "James Sowerby". Artist. Art of the print. Retrieved 2007-07-30. "Each of these original etchings was hand-coloured by watercolourists before publication." 

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