CURTIS, William (1746-1799)
Flora Londinensis; or, Plates and Descriptions of such Plants as grow wild in the Environs of London
London: printed for and sold by the Author & B.White & Son (vol.I), for the author (vol.II), [1775-]1777-1798. 2 volumes, folio. (17 7/8 x 11 inches). Engraved oval title vignette to vol.I, 432 hand-coloured engraved plates, after Sydenham Edwards, James Sowerby and William Kilburn, with some plates printed in colours and hand-coloured, as issued. 2pp. subscriber list in vol. 1, general index to fascicules 1-3 in vol. 1 and part indices to fascicules 4-6 in vol. 2. Plates in vol. 1 with period manuscript numbering in the lower left corner of each plate.
Contemporary full tree calf, covers with a gilt roll tool border, upper covers with central arms in gilt of Lord Willoughby de Broke, expertly rebacked to style, flat spine in seven compartments divided by gilt roll tools, red and green morocco labels in the second and fourth compartments, the others with a repeat overall decoration in gilt
Provenance: John Peyto-Verney, Lord Willoughby de Broke (1738-1816, arms in gilt on the upper cover); Robert John Verney, Lord Willoughby de Broke (1809-1862, armorial bookplate)
Rare first edition of the first English colour-plate national flora: a large copy with wide margins to both plates and text.
Curtis, with the support of Lord Bute, published the first part in 1775. For "ten years he continued ... at his congenial but unremunerative task, [and] by 1787, the results of his labour were two splendid folio volumes and a deficit that made the continuance of his venture impossible. He understood the cause of the trouble and saw the remedy: if his clients refused to buy folio pictures of the unassuming plants that grew by the wayside, he would win their patronage with octavo engravings of the bright flowers that filled their gardens. Thus, in 1787, The Botanical Magazine was born" (Blunt. p.212). The success of the magazine allowed Curtis to continue the publication of the Flora Londiniensis, the former, as Curtis put it, providing the "pudding", the latter the greater satisfaction and the critical acclaim from his peers. The majority of the illustrations in the first volume are by William Kilburn with the rest of the plates divided between James Sowerby and Sydenham Edwards. The present copy, includes the "Catalogue of certain plants, growing wild in the environs of Settle" (here bound in the second volume). Unusually, the second volume here includes the three individual fascicule indices which were often discarded.
Dunthorne 87; Great Flower Books (1990) p.88; Henrey III, 595; Hunt 650; Nissen BBI 439; Stafleu & Cowan 1286.