[Louisa Finch, Countess of Aylesford (1760-1832)]
Two albums of original watercolours of mushrooms, toadstools and other fungi. [dated: 8 October 1792-1797]. 2 volumes, 2° (498 x 380mm). 2 leaves of manuscript indices at the front of each volume, 299 original watercolours by Louisa Finch (340 x 235mm. and smaller), 152 in vol.I, 147 in vol.II, mounted one to a sheet within an ink and wash border, all numbered, all with identifying title and a note of the place where they were drawn ('Packington') inscribed on the mount in ink in a single hand, many with a reference number, most with dates. Original diced russia, covers elaborately tooled in blind with a wide neo-classical border surrounding the centrally-placed blind-stamped arms of the Earl of Aylesford, gilt turn-ins, gilt edges (late 19th-century rebacking in morocco, stitching and inner hinges broken).
A FINE COLLECTION OF HIGHLY ATTRACTIVE WATERCOLOURS OF THE MUSHROOMS AND TOADSTOOLS TO BE FOUND IN THE VICINITY OF PACKINGTON HALL, COVENTRY: THE HOME OF THE EARL OF AYLESFORD. These accomplished and finely detailed watercolours are the work of Louisa, Countess of Aylesford. She was born at Longleat in Wiltshire, the eldest daughter of Thomas Thynne, 1st Marquess of Bath. In 1781, she married Heneage Finch, 4th Earl of Aylesford, by whom she had 12 children between about 1786 and 1799. These numberous confinements would have ensured that Louisa pursued appropriately cerebral activities and the present albums appear to have been one result. The Longleat connection is confirmed by a drawing number 88 in volume II which includes an inscription on the mount 'Packington 1792. fm. Longleat'. Intelligence as well as artistic ability have been applied to creating the albums, and they show Louisa to have been not only an accomplished draughtswoman but also a keen student of botany. The majority of the drawings have identifying names beneath, together with a reference (e.g. 'W.296' number 20 in vol.II, or 'With.308' number 57 in vol.II). This refers to one of the works published by William Withering (1741-1799) in which he offered a systematic arrangement of the native plants of Great Britain (see Stafleu & Cowan 18.077-18.081). Withering employed the Linnean binomial system of naming the plants and this is employed for the majority of the drawings in the present collection. These two albums formed part of the 27 volume set of drawings of British Plants drawn by Louisa and sold from the Aylesford library at Christie's March 6, 1888. (2)