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Robert John Thornton (1768-1837), New Illustration of the Sexual System of Carolus von Linnaeus ... the Temple of Flora, or Garden of Nature

  • $ 225,000.00

Robert John Thornton (1768-1837)


New Illustration of the Sexual System of Carolus von Linnaeus ... the Temple of Flora, or Garden of Nature

3 parts bound in one volume, broadsheets (23 4/8 x 18 4/8 inches).

Part I: engraved half-title "A British Trophy ..."; engraved portrait of Thornton by F. Bartolozzi after Russell; engraved additional title; aquatint portrait of Linnaeus by H. Meyer after Hollman and Bartolozzi; engraved portrait of Queen Charlotte by Bartolozzi after W. Beechy; engraved dedication; 3 engraved tables; engraved part-title "The Prize Dissertation;" engraved plates of "The Universal Power of Love," "Farina of Flowers," and portrait of Sir Thomas Millington.

Part II: engraved part-title; mezzotint portrait of Linnaeus in Lapland dress by Dunkarton after Hoffman [Dunthorne's state A]; 2 engraved tables.

Part III: engraved title on 2 sheets; engraved table of contents; engraved dedication on 2 sheets; engraved part-title; 3 plates: "Flora Dispensing her Favours on Earth" (aquatint and stipple engraved, hand-colored), and "Aesculapius, Flora, Ceres and Cupid ..." and "Cupid Inspiring the Plants with Love" (color-printed stipple-engravings finished by hand); 30 mezzotint and/or aquatint engraved plates printed in colors and/or colored by hand, comprising:

"The Snowdrop" [Dunthorne state I];

"The Persian Cyclamen" [II];

"Hyacinths" [II];

"Roses" [I];

"A Group of Carnations" [II];

"A Group of Auriculas" [two only, I];

"A Group of Auriculas" [four, II];

"Tulips" [I];

"The Queen";

"The Aloe" [I];

"The Nodding Renealmia" [I];

"The Night Blowing Cereus" [I];

"The Oblique-Leaved Begonia" [I];

"Large Flowering Sensitive Plant" [I];

"The Blue Passion Flower" [I];

"The Winged Passion Flower" [I];

"The Quadrangular Passion Flower" [II];

"The White Lily" [II];

'The Superb Lily' [B, III];

"The Dragon Arum" [I];

"The Maggot-Bearing Stapelia" [I];

"American Bog Plants" [II];

'"The Pitcher-Plant";

"The Pontic Rhododendron";

"The American Cowslip" [I];

"The Narrow Leaved Kalmia";

"The China Limodoron";

"The Indian Reed" [I];

"The sacred Indian Bean";

"The Blue Egyptian Water Lily" (some minor marginal dampstaining, fore-edges of some text leaves a bit frayed). 20th-century green morocco by Sangorski and Sutcliffe, each cover elaborately decorated in gilt with broad borders of floral roll tools, fine dots and rose tools, spine in seven compartments, with six raised bands, lettered in one, the others decorated with fine floral cornerpieces; two original green/blue wrappers bound in at the end, one with the "Address" announcing four new plates.  

Provenance: 20th-century etched bookplate of Johannis Hus on the front paste-down.  


First edition, bound from the original parts, AN EARLY ISSUE WITH FINE IMPRESSIONS OF THE PLATES and including the two rare plates: "A Group of [four] Auriculas" and "Pitcher Plant"; the majority of the plates are in their earliest or only issue; original stabholes are visible on some plates; and watermarks dated 1801, 1804, and 1807.  Only one of the justly celebrated plates of flowers ("The Roses") was by Thornton, the others are after paintings by Abraham Pether, Philip Reinagle, Sydenham Edwards, Peter Henderson and others, although he selected the subjects of the plates, their symbolism and dramatic landscapes.  

A doctor by training, a substantial inheritance allowed Thornton to achieve his dream of   "an immense work in many volumes which in scope, illustration, paper and typography would surpass anything in any other European country" (Grigson). However the enterprise brought about his financial ruin and in spite of several lotteries designed to raise funds Thornton was forced to return to medical practice in order to support himself. Cleveland Collections 722; Dunthorne 301; Grigson in Grigson & H. Buchanan "Thornton's Temple of Flora London": 1951, p.2): Nissen BBI 1955; Sitwell "Great Flower Books" p.143; Stafleu and Cowan 14283; Thomas, "Great Books and Book Collectors", p.144). 


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