A fine run of one of the most important, and long running botanical periodicals, illustrated with over 10,500 plates. It forms a remarkable record of the introduction of new plants, particularly exotics.
The present periodical publication owes its commencement to the repeated solicitations of several ladies and gentlemen who were frequently lamenting the want of a work, which might enable them, not only to acquire a systematic knowledge of the foreign plants growing in their gardens, but which might at the same time afford them the best information respecting their culture, in fact, a work in which botany and gardening or the labour of Linnaeus and Miller, might happily be combined. (William Curtis. Preface to volume 1)
William Curtis (1746-1799) began publication of The Botanical Magazine in February 1787, finding immediate success (resulting in the early volumes being quickly reissued). On the death of William Curtis, the magazine was conducted briefly by his brother Thomas Curtis, before his son-in-law Samuel Curtis became proprietor and owner from 1801 to 1845. The copyright was then transferred to Messrs. Lovell and Reeve who held it until 1920, whereupon a group of horticulturists led by H.J. Elwes purchased the copyright which was subsequently transferred to the Royal Horticultural Society. In 1984 it was taken over by the Royal Botanic Gardens.
After William Curtis, who edited the first three volumes, the editors included John Sims (1800-1826), William Jackson Hooker (1827-1865) and Joseph Dalton Hooker (1865-1904). During the latters editorship the cultivation of Orchids probably reached its heyday with the introduction of many foreign plants, and helped by the continual raising of seedlings and hybrids in British Gardens.
Most of the early plates were from drawings by Sydenham Edwards and the colouring by William Graves. Other artists included James Sowerby, John Curtis, William Jackson Hooker, W.H. Fitch, Matilda Smith, Lilian Snelling and Stella Ross-Craig. Up to the end of volume 30 the plates were engraved on copper; thereafter lithography was employed,. Until colour printing was introduced in 1948, the plates were coloured by hand. See illustration overleaf.
Curtis (William) and others The Botanical Magazine, Volumes 1-184, bound in 163 volumes, plus 3 volumes of indexes (covering volumes 1-170) and one volume of Dedications and Portraits (1827-1927), together 167 volumes, reissue of volumes 1-6, over 10,500 plates of plants, most hand-coloured, many folding or double-page, portraits in volumes 154-184, volume 26 lacks title, volume 41 lacks plate 1722, volume 53 lacks plates 2606*, 2657-2662, 2684-2688 and title and index leaf, volume 60 lacks plates 3227 and 3255, volumes 74 and 86 lack index leaves, occasional slight spotting, offsetting or discolouration, volumes 1-53 bound in 32 volumes half calf, rubbed volumes 54-62 modern half calf, volumes 63-140 half calf (two separate styles), some rubbing, spine labels renewed, the remainder modern half calf 8vo, London, 1793-1983, sold as a periodical