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. Two volumes in four, folio. (19 3/4 x 12 1/4 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, General Observations on grasses and Catalogue of plants growing in Settle in vol. 1. With a 20th century typed alphabetical Index of plants inserted in vol. 1. Without the fascicule indices found in some copies. Uncut.
Contemporary blue paper covered boards, rebacked with green cloth a later date, spines with manuscript paper labels.
Provenance: Sir James Musgrave, Baronet of Barnsley Park (armorial bookplate);
Rare first edition of the first English colour-plate national flora: a very clean, uncut example 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. As per Curtis's instructions in the Preface, the original owner of this copy had his set bound in boards with the edges uncut and with the plates arranged in Linnaean order.
Dunthorne 87; Great Flower Books (1990) p.88; Henrey III, 595; Hunt 650; Nissen BBI 439; Stafleu & Cowan 1286.