[HILL, Sir John (1716-1775)]
Eden: or, a Compleat body of gardening, containing plain and familiar directions for raising the several useful products of a garden ... compiled and digested from the papers of the late celebrated Mr. Hale, by the authors of the compleat body of husbandry. And comprehending the art of constructing a garden for use and pleasure; the best methods of keeping it in order: and the most perfect accounts of its several products
London: printed for T. Osborne, T. Trye, S. Crowder & Co., and H. Woodgate, [1756-]1757. Folio. (16 5/8 x 10 inches). Engraved emblematic frontispiece, 60 engraved plates, all finely hand-coloured by a contemporary hand, most plates unsigned but including work by C. Edwards & Darly, J.Hill, Boyce, Philips, B. Cole, Ed. Alton and others, after Edwards, J. Hill, Van Huysum and others.
Early 19th century full dark green morocco, covers elaborately bordered in gilt, spine with raised bands in seven compartments, lettered in the second, the others with a repeat overall decoration in gilt, contemporary marbled endpapers, marbled edges (expert restoration at joints)
An exceptional example of the first edition of this important 18th-century gardening book: with very fine contemporary hand-colouring.
The work was issued in 60 weekly parts between August 1756 and October 1757, and was available with plates uncoloured or coloured. The present example is truly exceptional: it is among the best contemporary coloured examples that we have seen. The plates are coloured by an assured and highly-talented hand, using a strong palate, and show oxidisation of the pigments which is a reliable indicator of early colouring.
The work, intended as a companion to the Compleat Body of Husbandry (London, 1756), was designed along very unusual lines for the period: each weekly part includes information on what should be done in the garden during the following week together with descriptions of the plants that should be at their peak at that time. In the introduction, the author's intentions are made plain: "We shall treat Gardens from their Origin, Design, and first Construction, to raising them to Perfection, and keeping them in that condition; and we shall consider, in our Course, their Products, whether of Use, Curiosity, or Beauty. These we shall describe in their several Seasons, suiting our Publications to the Time of their Appearance."
Henrey writes of Sir John Hill that "Not only was ... [he] industrious and energetic, but his writings show him to have been a man of real ability and genius" (vol. II, p. 91). Unfortunately, he was also conceited, eccentric and fond of self-advertisement: traits not conducive to winning friends, and various false starts in his search for wealth and recognition led him to pursue a number of careers: apothecary, practical botanist, actor, gardener (he apparently assisted in the laying out of a botanic garden in Kew, and was gardener at Kensington Palace) and, most productively of all, miscellaneous writer (the list of his works in the D.N.B. runs to five and a half columns).
Bradley III, 109; Great Flower Books (1990) p.100; Henrey III 776; Hunt 559; Nissen BBI 880; Tongiorgi Tomasi An Oak Spring Flora 53 (second edition).