HILL, JOHN. The British Herbal: an History of Plants and Trees, Natives of Britain, cultivated for use, or raised for beauty. London: T. Osborne, J. Shipton, J. Hodges, J. Newbery, B. Collins, S. Crowder and H. Woodgate, 1756 [-1757].
Folio, 461 x 289 mm., contemporary English straight-grained red morocco, sides with a border of repeated gilt flower tool, spine in eight compartments with seven raised bands, green morocco gilt-lettered label in one compartment, a repeated gilt-panel in the rest, broad edges and turn-ins gilt, g.e., old waterstain on upper cover, corners slightly worn, some minor abrasions; frontispiece and title page, dust-soiled, blank corner lost from plate 3.
FIRST EDITION, LARGE-PAPER COPY WITH COLORED PLATES. Title printed in red and black with engraved vignette by C. Grignion after S. Wale, engraved frontispiece by H. Roberts after Wale, engraved coat-of-arms of the Duke of Northumberland heading the dedication and 75 engraved plates illustrating some 1500 plants by Benning, Boyce, Roberts and Smith after J. Burgess.
"The genera and species are clearly described in The British herbal, and the work is of importance as being one of the first publications to appear after the Species plantarum of 1753, the year internationally accepted as the starting-point for modern botanical nomenclature...The British Herbal is also of interest for Hill's criticism of Linnaeus." --Henrey.
"There are few more fascinating, or more ludicrous, figures in the scientific world of this period than Sir John Hill (1716?-1775). Apprenticed as a youth to an apothecary, in due course he set up his own shop in London. But sighing uneasily after wealth and fame, he soon broke loose and embarked upon a series of enterprises which brought him neither the one nor the other...but he successfully roung-handled the smug Royal Society of London. In 1759, he begain his mangum opus, The Vegetable System [see lot 64 in the present catalogue], which was issued during the next sixteen years in twenty-six volumes containing 1600 engravings of 26,000 different plants. Financially, the enterprise was a total failure; but Hill's perseverance did not go wholly unrewarded: in 1774, he received from the King of Sweden the Order of Vasa which entitled him to use the title 'Sir'...Despite his vain and quarrelsome disposition and indulgence in sarcastic wordy battles, Hill was a man of scientific ability. One of his seventy-six works, The British Herbal...is nomenclaturally important because he reinstated pre-Linnaean names which Linnaeus had suppressed..." -- Blunt & Stearn.
Blunt & Stearne, The Art of Botanical Illustration, pp. 170-171; Dunthorne 128; Great Flower Books, p. 59; Henrey II, pp. 92-94 and III, no. 799; Hunt 557; Nissen BBI 881; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 2769.
Provenance: Earl Fitzwilliam, bookplate.