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Book: HISTORIA PLANTARUM RARIORUM (History of

1728-1729
Origin: England, London
OH: 18 1/2" x OW: 14 1/2"
Mezzotint engravings printed in color
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1986-124
From Historia Plantarum Rariorum.
Label:Published in 1728, Historia Plantarum Rariorum, or History of Rare Plants, documents and illustrates new plants growing at the botanical gardens in Chelsea and Cambridge. The cost of the book’s production was underwritten by fees paid in advance from subscribers. Each print is dedicated to one of those patrons and includes the subscribers’ coat of arms in the illustration. The image of the Jalapa Officinarum bears the coat-of-arms of Sir Hans Sloane, president of both the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Society.

Issued over a period of five years, the complete work contained fifty prints. The engravings are particularly important because they represent the first flower book to be printed in color rather than individually hand colored. Elisha Kirkall engraved the plates in mezzotint, a process of systematically pricking the entire surface with small holes to create areas of varied tone and dimension in the image. Most of the original paintings were the work of Jacob van Huysum, a Flemish flower painter known for his dramatic compositions.