The Temple of Flora, the third and final part of Thornton’s New illustration of the sexual system of Carolus von Linnaeus is probably the most sumptious and renowned of all great flower books. It contains thirty-one plates, produced by a variety of techniques including aquatint, mezzotint, stipple, and line engraving. The impressions were printed in colour and afterwards finished by hand. During production, most of the plates were altered or added to from time to time, producing a different ‘state’ in each case; consequently, some plates have as many as four different states. The artists who contributed to the volume included Peter Henderson, Philip Reinagle, Abraham Pether and Sydenham Edwards. Depcited here is a mezzotint of Night Blowing Cereus, named on account of its flowers opening after sunset. As Thornton insisted that all the plants should be seen in their natural habitats, it is given a moonlit setting. The expense in producing this monumental work was crippling. To stave off bankruptcy, Thornton was compelled to hold a lottery with the original paintings for the plates as first prize. Unfortunately, the tickets failed to sell well and Thornton died in 1837 almost destitute.
Categories: Special Collections