CURTIS, W.: The botanical Magazine, or Flower Garden Displayed. Vol. 1-70, bound in 49. London, S. Couchman. 1787-1844 Octavo 23,5 x 14 cm. With 4138 fine hand-coloured engravings, some folded. Plates 120, 903B, 1605 uncolored, as normal. 3 never bound in missing plates 361-363 in vol XI, plates 553-1075 with entry of the names of the plants with ink or pencil in old hand. From plate 3776 as usual somewhat browned, since from 1840 other paper was used for the plates. The white front and endpapers somewhat foxed, some vols partly with browned leaves as normal for this serial, the rest very clean and in excellent condition. Contemporary full tan calf, spine richly gilded, marbled sides fitted to the marbled endpapers. Overall condition very good with a little general wear, some vols with partly broken joints but without loss of stability. All volumes with bookplate on the front inside cover.
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Very attractive uniformly bound unbroken run The magazine is the greatest serial of botanical illustration yet produced, the consistent quality of the journal's plates and authority make this the most widely cited work of its kind. "The oldest scientific periodical of its kind with coloured illustrations in the world. In the beauty of production and high standard of its contribution it can claim a unique place" (Patrick Synge, Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, 1948). The artist who dominated the early years of the magazine, however, was Sydenham Teast Edwards (1768-1819). His talent was brought to the attention of Curtis who arranged for him to be trained in London as a botanical artist. He was only nineteen when his first plate was published in the Botanical Magazine in 1788. At first Edwards drew and engraved the plates himself, but from 1792 Francis Sansom took over the engraving. The beautiful hand coloured plates are the chief glory of the magazine. The early examples are still largely bright and fresh, even after more than two hundred years. As Curtis states in the preface to the first issue, the plates were drawn 'always from the living plant, and coloured as near to nature, as the imperfection of colouring will admit'. With little chance to exert any artistic freedom, each artist had to draw the specimens exactly and accurately in order to create a scientifically authoritative work. Up to volume 70 the plates were created using copper etching, with watercolour being added to each copy by a team up to thirty people. This set covers the earliest period of recording for the first time the botany of the Pacific region newly explored by European expeditions including the three voyages made by James Cook. The first, and most of the second era of the magazine relate to the editorships of William Curtis himself (vols. I-XVI) and then his successor Dr. John Sims. The work is unmatched for information on the contemporary gardening scene, because both Curtis and Sims understood the close relationship between gardeners and nurserymen, and wanted to advertise the new plants as they became available. The choice of plants to be described was often influenced by the public's overwhelming appetite for the uncommon. At first, the plants selected were predominantly European, but the nineteenth century saw a huge increase in plants being sourced from further afield by intrepid plant collectors. David Douglas (1799-1834), for example, collected extensively in America on behalf of the Royal Horticultural Society. He travelled for eleven years, sending seeds and specimens back home at intervals; many of his plants flourished in England and were illustrated in the Botanical Magazine as they flowered. Founded in 1787, the Magazine is still being issued (now as Curtis's Botanical Magazine). From its start through to the early nineteenth century it is celebrated as an outstanding and beautifully illustrated record of the botanical world including the earliest discoveries in the southern New World. - Stafleu & Cowan 1290; Nissen BBI, 2350.