The English Flora; Grammar of Botany, Illustrative of Artificial, as well as Natural Classification; An Introduction to Physiological and Systematical Botany

london Longmans, Green and Co. 1821-1828 1st & 5th 8vo(20.7cm x 12.9cm). All six volumes are uniformly bound in full green calf with gilt decorated spines, raised bands, tooled panels and red morocco labels for title and author. Volume number in Roman Italic numbers beneath author for volumes of The English Flora. Spines darkened with loss of gilt in tooled areas as well as rubbing. Age wear and some staining on boards. There is uniform marbling on all edges and marbled endpapers. Text is very clean with occasional offsetting from silk page marker for The English Flora volumes. Provenance: Each volume has ink initials, "RHy(?)" on verso of title page. (Item ID: 0000781)


The Introduction to Botany is the first edition with color plates. Smith wrote Introduction to Botany to make the Linnaean system understandable for women who he wanted to be able to study Botany and use the Linnaean system for plant identification in the field and gardening."A Grammar of Botany is organized with the first six chapters focused on vegetable physiognomy and the theory of systematic arrangement. Chapter seven sets out the Linnaean artificial system 'somewhat reformed', followed by a description of the Natural System of Jussieu which was the first time it had been fully presented in English… Grammar of Botany was greeted with acclaim from Smith's colleagues within the Linnaean school. Samuel Goodenough, expecting merely an updated version of Introduction to Botany, on opening it perceived 'a grammar of prime excellence.' Thomas Martyn also immediately identified the 'hand of a Master-concise yet full-remarkable for clearness and neatness', and recognized that with the publication of The English Flora, alongside Grammar and Introduction to Botany, the 'British Botanist will find everything that he wants in these three works of yours." (Tom Kennett, The Lord Treasurer of Botany, p.297.)Smith was an exceptional writer whose drafts were of such clearness and free of errors or any need for corrections that they could be used directly for printing. Contemporaries marveled at Smith's ability to be so accurate and precise in his writing. "Sir James Edward Smith. (1759&1828). He was a botanist born on 2 December 1759 at 37 Gentleman's Way, Norwich, the eldest of the seven children of James Smith (1727&1795), a wealthy Unitarian wool merchant, and his wife, Frances (1731&1820), only daughter of the Revd John Kinderley.Being delicate, Smith was at first educated at home. He inherited a love of flowers from his mother, but did not begin the study of botany as a science until he was eighteen, and then, curiously enough, on the very day of Linnaeus's death. He was guided in his early studies by his friends James Crowe of Lakenham, Hugh Rose, John Pitchford, and the Revd Henry Bryant, and, though originally destined for a business career, was sent in 1781 to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. There he studied botany under Dr John Hope, one of the earliest teachers of the Linnaean system, won a gold medal awarded by him, and established a natural history society. In September,1783 he went to London to study under Dr John Hunter and Dr William Pitcairn, with an introduction from Hope to Sir Joseph Banks, then president of the Royal Society.On the death of the younger Linnaeus in that year the whole of the library, manuscripts, herbarium, and natural history collections made by him and his father were offered to Banks for 1000 guineas. Banks declined but on his recommendation Smith bought them, with a loan from his father…Smith now became entirely devoted to natural history, and mainly to botany… In 1790, however, he began the publication of what has proved his most enduring work, though as his name did not appear on the first three volumes, it is still often known as Sowerby's English Botany, from the name of its illustrator, James Sowerby. It formed thirty-six octavo volumes, with 2592 plates comprising all known British plants with the exception of the fungi; its publication was not completed until 1814.In 1796 Smith married Pleasance, only daughter of Robert Reeve, attorney of Lowestoft. Lady Smith later edited her husband's correspondence. Soon after his marriage he retired to Norwich, only visiting London for two or three months in each year to deliver an annual course of lectures at the Royal Institution, which he continued until 1825. His days were spent in his elegantly arranged museum, containing the old-fashioned cabinets from Uppsala, looking very out of place; there he wrote his books from nine o'clock until three and again from seven to nine at night and replied to his numerous correspondents. He was annually re-elected president of the Linnaean Society until his death. After he had completed his important Flora Britannica, in three octavo volumes, 1800&04, Smith was chosen by the executors to edit the Flora Graeca of his friend, John Sibthorp. He published the Prodromus in two octavo volumes in 1806 and 1813, and completed six volumes of the Flora itself before his death. In 1807 appeared the first edition of his most successful work, The Introduction to Physiological and Systematic Botany, which passed through six editions during the author's lifetime; this work included a preface, expressing his own philosophy of life… What has been described as his 'last and best work', The English Flora, occupied Smith during the last seven years of his life, the first two volumes appearing in 1824, the third in 1825, and the fourth in March 1828, a few days before his death." (ODNB) (Henrey, 1337, 1343, 1351; Pritzel, 8745, 8747, 8748; Stafleu & Cowan, 12.249, 12.256, 12.257a)

Topic Notification

Site by Bibliopolis