London, for the author, [1775–] 1777–98 2 vols, folio (470 x 285 mm), with two title-pages, two dedication leaves, one leaf of subscribers, 6 leaves of index, 2 leaves of ‘Observations on grasses…’ and 3 leaves of the ‘Catalogue of plants…’, and leaf of letterpress description to each plate, with engraved vignette on first title and 432 hand-coloured engraved plates (two double) depicting a total of 434 plants; a few minor marginal spots, a very clean, fresh copy, without offsetting, in contemporary English calf, gilt borders on sides, rebacked preserving original spines, spines elaborately gilt, with red and green morocco labels.
First edition, first issue of this ‘splendid, complicated, basic, English flora’ (Hunt catalogue). It contains some of James Sowerby’s first botanical illustrations; other artists involved were Sydenham Edwards, W. Kilburn, and possibly others. The Flora londinensis embraces most of the English flora, as a result of which it should properly be regarded as the first colour-plate national flora of England. ‘Curtis was a British pharmacist, botanist, and entomologist. After selling his pharmacy business, Curtis set up a botanic garden of British plants at Bermondsey in 1771. In 1773 he was appointed demonstrator of plants at the Chelsea Physic Garden, a post he held until 1777. In 1779 he moved his London botanic garden to a larger location in Brompton.
‘[The Flora londinensis ] attempted to portray all the native plants within a ten-mile radius of London, but was cut short for lack of subscriptions. According to Miss Henrey’s account, no more than 300 of any single number are believed to have been printed’ (Johnston, The Cleveland botanical collections , p 495). As a result of pressing for binding, this work often has offset from the text onto the plates.
Provenance: Sir Richard Vyvyan, 8th Baronet (1800–1879); In 1826, Vyvyan was made a Fellow of the Royal Society for his ‘considerable literary and scientific acquirements especially in the Philosophy of Natural History’; he was also a Fellow of the Geological Society. The family estate in Cornwall, Trelowarren, was famous for its botanical garden
Dunthorne 87; Johnston 532; Henrey 595; Hunt 650; Nissen BBI 439; Stafleu and Cowan 1286