Temple of Flora,London, (1799 - 1807) , later an edition
of 1812 entitled New Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus,
and the most celebrated of all English Botanical Books.
The project is unusual in several ways. The plates which vary in number
in various editions are by several artists with Thornton acting as a design
director. One artist would paint the flower, another the background. The
backgrounds set a most imaginative precedent for the future of Flower
(and Natural History) Books. The examples are set in a range of moody
landscapes which usually show evidence of human activity. The impact of
the plates can be seen in Daniell's illustrations to the three volums
edition of ZOOGRAPHY in 1811. Thornton's Temple of Flora was a massive
and ultimately financially unsuccessfully undertaking. It exploits a peculiarly
English Romantic conceit of the composition without a middle distance.
The quality of reproduction in the book is high, and the scale immense
(an atlas folio) and the plates a cunning mixture on mezzotint, aquatint
and stipple engraving with partial printing in colour supplemented by
'A Group of Auriculas'
RIGHT 'The Superb Lily'
Ronald King (ed) The Temple of Flora (with excellent
Bibliography), Weidenfield & Nicholson, London 1981.
Buchanan, Nature Into Art , Weidenfield & Nicholson, London