The present album is made up of studies by a number of artists, some commissioned by John Reeves (1774-1856) and some by artists working in the same circle as those whom he employed. Twelve of the watercolours (including a) are inscribed by John Lindley (1799-1865), and these sheets have had the corners cut to partially remove the collector's mark of the Horticultural Society of London. The watercolours must have originally been in the collection of the Horticultural Society, having been sent to London by John Reeves in the 1820s. Reeves was an inspector of tea at Canton and Macao for the East India Company and in 1817 he offered to send plant specimens and drawings to the Royal Society. By 1819 the Society had received 130 drawings, and throughout the 1820s Reeves continued to send drawings and plants back to London. In 1859 The Horticultural Society sold the drawings through Messrs. Sotheby and Wilkinson, and it is uncertain what happened to the them between the sale and when some of them returned to the Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley Library in 1936 and 1953 through the Reginald Cory Bequest and the book dealers Heywood Hill. What is clear, however, is that what the Society now has is not the full complement that was originally sold. An independent set of Reeves's drawings had been sent by Reeves to Sir Joseph Banks and is now held in the Natural History Museum Library.
In the present album there are a number of repeat compositions by different hands, some on very fine tracing paper.
For an example of a watercolour from one of the John Reeves albums, inscribed by John Lindley, see B. Elliot, Treasures of the Royal Horticultural Society, London, 1994, p. 98, pl. 38.
One of the watercolours in the album, Magnolia conspiana, executed on fine paper, is another version of a watercolour from the Reginald Cory bequest attributed to a Japanese artist (see B. Elliot, op. cit., p. 102, pl. 40).