18. A Flower-Garden Display’d: Curtis’s Botanical Magazine

This week’s Object is probably my favourite of all the printed books in Special Collections at Bradford.

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine began in 1787 as The Botanical Magazine, or Flower-Garden display’d, founded by William Curtis.  It featured scientific details and hand-coloured images of ornamental plants plus information about how to grow them.  The Magazine was intended for “the use of such ladies, gentlemen and gardeners as wish to become scientifically acquainted with the plants they cultivate”.  Special Collections holds 1787-1817.

The reason I love this publication is obvious from these images: the stunning illustrations.  The contrast of these incredibly bright colours and beautiful flowers leaping from our rather drab bindings simply has to be experienced in person.  However, we’ve had a go at showing what we mean in this video.

The illustrations are hand-coloured copper engravings.  The colours used and skills varied between colourists, so each copy of the early years of the Magazine is unique.

The Magazine was highly successful and remains a respected reference source: it is still published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

See more beautiful images and further information about Curtis and the Magazine in this feature by Glasgow University Library Special Collections.  And the reproductions are particularly gorgeous in this blog post by St Andrew’s University Special Collections about their copies of this fantastic work (first in a series of Inspiring Illustrations, well worth following if you enjoyed this post).

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