CURTIS, William (1746-99). Flora Londinensis: or Plates and Descriptions of such plants as grow wild in the Environs of London. London: for the author and B. White, -1777-1798.
2 volumes comprising 6 fascicules bound in 3, 2° (471 x 288mm). Engraved vignette on title-page, 432 hand-coloured plates after Sydenham Edwards, William Kilburn, James Sowerby and others. (Some leaves lightly browned, lacks dedication in vol. I. and leaf of subscribers.) Contemporary diced russia, gilt border, gilt spines with repeat bird tool surrounded by foliate corner tools, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers and edges (joints rubbed and cracked, covers loose, spine of vol. III worn). Provenance: Francis Ferrand Foljambe (title stamp).
FIRST EDITION OF WILLIAM CURTIS'S IMPRESSIVE RECORD OF ENGLISH FLORA, with the second issue of the title-page of volume I giving the author's address as his Botanic Garden, Lambeth Marsh. Curtis's reputation as a botanist was such that he was made the praefectus horti (or director) of the Society of Apothecaries at the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1772. The following year he established a botanical garden for the cultivation and study of native British plants at Bermondsey. This garden was to move twice: first to Lambeth Marsh and later Brompton. He cultivated some 6,000 species from all over the world in his garden, including medicinal and culinary herbs, English wild flowers, trees and shrubs. For an annual subscription of a guinea patrons could visit Curtis's garden and attend the lectures he gave there, and for an extra guinea a year they could also have a share in the plants and seeds from the garden.
The first five fascicules of Flora Londinensis were published, with the support of Lord Bute, over 12 years. 'By 1787, the results of [Curtis's] labours were two splendid folio volumes and a deficit which made the continuance of his venture impossible' (Blunt & Stearn, p.212). In 1787 followed a gap of at least three years, during which Curtis launched the Botanical Magazine to raise funds, before the Flora Londinensis could resume publication. '"One brought me pudding," said Curtis, "the other praise"' (John Gilmour, British Botanists, 1944). Henrey 595; Hunt 650; Nissen BBI 440; Stafleu and Cowan 1286. (3)