The Botanical Magazine is "the oldest current scientific periodical of its kind with coloured illustrations in the world... in the beauty of production and high standard of its contributions it can claim a unique place" (Patrick Synge. Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society (1948), p.73) The longest running botanical magazine, it is renowned for featuring the work of two centuries of botanical illustrators. The magazine was first published in 1787 by English botanist and entomologist, William Curtis, as an illustrated gardening and botanical journal.
Natural history illustrator, Sydenham Edwards did most of the original drawings, engraved by Sansom, for the early volumes of the magazine. All of the illustrations were drawn from the living plant and "coloured as near to nature, as the imperfections of colouring will admit." Dunthorne calls the Curtis "a delightful work pictorially, never excelled as a periodical, most carefully coloured and a source of lasting interest and information." (p.190).
The colouring of the plates in the set offered in our June Rare Books auction is of the highest quality. The colourist took enormous pains to highlight each flower with subtle shades of colour rather than allow the engraving to designate tone and depth.
Though the title-pages date from 1793-1801, the plates are dated from March 1786. According to Stafleu the first edition is determined by the date of the plates: "The plates in the early volumes are dated. These dates can usually be accepted as the dates of publication." (Stafleu. Taxonomic Literature, p.92-93. Hunt 689; Nissen BBI 2350; Dunthorne 99; Henry III, 472; Sitwell. Great Flower Books, 83-84; Blung 184-189)
We are delighted to present this first edition set of The Botanical Magazine at auction on Wednesday 19 June in our Rare Books, Maps, Manuscripts & Photographs sale in Edinburgh.