DUKE, J. (publisher)
The Compleat Florist
London: printed for J. Duke and sold by J. Robinson, 1747. Octavo. (8 7/8 x 5 1/4 inches). Engraved throughout. Hand-coloured emblematic frontispiece by John Carwitham, title with elaborate hand-coloured floral border, 100 hand-coloured numbered plates with integral text.
Expertly rebacked to style in 18th-century russia, with contemporary marbled paper-covered boards, spines divided into seven compartments with raised bands, red morocco lettering piece
Provenance: Isaac Royall (early inscription dated 16 January 1754)
An excellent copy of the deluxe hand-coloured issue of the first edition, second issue of this beautiful and valuable work.
Today, the word florist describes a profession: one who sells flowers, normally cut flowers and normally from retail premises. In the 18th-century the word "florist" had a more general meaning. Samuel Johnson, in 1757, defined a florist as a "cultivater [sic.] of flowers" in both a professional and amateur capacity. This work was aimed at both groups of flower growers, and was intended as an indicator of what was available, fashionable, and the "coming-thing," whilst also providing the necessary growing instructions. The work was first published in two parts in 1740, and re-issued in the present format in 1747. Each plate features a single variety. The first six plates include the names of the nurserymen/florists who grew the individual bloom: Messrs. Kingman, Giles (2), Sampson, Bowen and Fairchild. All of the plates include a note of when the variety flowers, and they all also include integral engraved text that either gives cultivation instructions, or refers back to a previous plate that features another variety of the same plant.
The work is not only beautifully engraved and printed, but also offers an important overview of the varieties that were available to gardeners during mid-18th century, an important time in the history of gardening when systematic classification was taking hold. A surprising number of different species are shown, with multiple varieties of a number of species, including: 5 tulips; 5 anemone; 6 lillies; 8 carnations or pinks; 7 roses; 4 irises; and 3 auriculas. A contemporary reference records that the work was available at 5s. uncoloured, or, as here, 15s. coloured.
Dunthorne 102; cf. The Gardening World (22 March 1890) 6, p.456; Henrey III, 568; Nissen BBI 554; cf. R. Weston Tracts on Practical Agriculture and Gardening ... Second edition (1773) 68.