Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Hortus Britannicus

I found this first edition of an amazing work of early 19th. century scholarship in an antiquarian bookshop many years ago. J.C. Loudon's Hortus Britannicus lists all the the plants, native and introduced, known to be growing in Britain in 1830.

This is much more than just a list, though, as becomes evident when you read the title page which describes the full scope of this monumental work of reference. 

It is: 

A Catalogue of all the Plants Indigenous, Cultivated in, or Introduced to Britain with the Systematic Name and Authority, Accentuation,Derivation of Generic names,literal English of specific names,Synonyms Systematic and English of both Genera and Species, Habit, Habitation in the garden, Indigenous Habitation, Popular Character, Height, Time of Flowering, Colour of the Flower, Mode of Propagation, Soil, Native Country,Year of Introduction, and Reference to Figures

All this information, in this masterpiece of early 19th. century information technology, is tabulated under column headings. 

This page is the key to the various categories under each heading. 

If you double click on this image it should enlarge enough for the detail to be readable.

Here is a sample page, for species in the genus Primula, the primroses.

But there is more! 

Here is Loudon's method for producing coded plant labels for the garden that correspond to the species numbers in his catalogue, by cutting grooves in a wooden label.

And here is his advice on drying plants, forming a herbarium and drawing plants, flowers and fruits.

J.C.Loudon was a Scottish botanist who also designed gardens and cemeteries and who is also credited with coining the term 'arboretum'. 

Despite suffering from poor health he travelled widely and seems to have been something of a workaholic. He completed Hortus Britannicus after a botched operation to repair a broken right arm, which led to him having it amputated at the shoulder. Undeterred, he quickly learned to write and draw with his left hand.

He died, penniless, in 1843.

You can read his Wikipedia enrty (the source of this image) by clicking here.

You can download a digital copy of Hortus Britannicus by clicking here