MILLER, John (1715?-1790?)
Illustratio Systematis Sexualis Linnaei ... An Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus
London: published and sold by the author, [1770-]1777. Folio. (21 x 14 1/4 inches). Engraved frontispiece, engraved title, 4 hand-coloured engraved plates of botanical details, 104 engraved plates, each in two states (uncolored and finely hand colored; the hand colored plates being proofs before letters), all by and after Miller. One-page list of subscribers.
Contemporary calf, covers panelled in git, expertly rebacked, spine gilt with raised bands, contemporary marbled endpapers and edges
The first edition: with the plates in both coloured and uncoloured states.
The work was issued in 20 parts between 1770 and 1777. According to the list of subscribers, 105 copies were ordered by 85 individuals. The uncolored plates invariably included lettering for scientific purposes, while the handcolored plates are without lettering and many printed using a warm brown ink with the intent of making the images resemble the original watercolours and be more aesthetically pleasing.
The plants described and illustrated came in the main from Dr. John Fothergill's famous garden in Upton, Essex. Fothergill was an enthusiastic supporter and indeed superintendent of the work, but refused Miller's attempt to dedicate the work to him. He felt that dedications were "more productive of envy to the patron, than of advantage to the author."
John Miller (1715-1780), born Johann Sebastian Müller in Nuremberg, came to England in 1744 and remained there for the rest of his life. He was a botanical artist and engraver of considerable repute and came to the attention of the great naturalist Linnæus through the connection of John Ellis. Linnæus had nothing but praise for the artist, stating that the plates were "more beautiful and more accurate" than any he had ever seen. Referring to the work, Lettsom in his 1789 Memoirs of John Fothergill writes: an "immense work of botany wherein the pencil of Miller illustrated, in a style of unprecedented elegance, the sexual system of Linnæus."
Dunthorne 207; Great Flower Books (1990) p.120; Henrey III, 1153; Nissen BBI 1372; Sprague 'John Sebastian Miller's Icones Novae' in Journal of Botany , vol. 74 (London: 1936), pp.208-209; cf. J. C. Lettsom, The Memoirs of John Fothergill , p. 106.