Botanical, Curtis William, BM, Four-Leaved Flax 1797
Artist: Curtis William
Size: 145 x 235mm
Condition: Very good
Technique: Copperplate engraving
Description: original copperplate engraving with later hand colouring
About the Artist:
William Curtis (11 January 1746 – 7 July 1799) was an English botanist and entomologist, who was born at Alton, Hampshire, site of the Curtis Museum.
Curtis began as an apothecary, before turning his attention to botany and other natural histories. The publications he prepared effectively reached a wider audience than early works on the subject had intended. At the age of 25 he produced Instructions for collecting and preserving insects; particularly moths and butterflies.
Curtis was demonstrator of plants and Praefectus Horti at the Chelsea Physic Garden from 1771 to 1777. He established his own London Botanic Garden at Lambeth in 1779, moving to Brompton in 1789.
He published Flora Londinensis (6 volumes, 1777–1798), a pioneering work in that it devoted itself to urban nature. Financial success was not found, but he went on the publish The Botanical Magazine in 1787, a work that would also feature hand coloured plates by artists such as James Sowerby and Sydenham Edwards.
Curtis was to gain wealth from the ventures into publishing, short sales on Londinensis were offset by over 3,000 copies of the magazine. Curtis said they had each brought 'pudding or praise'.
The genus Curtisia is named in his honour. His publication was continued as the esteemed botanical publication, Curtis's Botanical Magazine. The noted natural history illustrators, James Sowerby and Sydenham Edwards both found a start with the eminent magazine.
He is commemorated in a stained glass window at St. Mary's Church, Battersea, as many of his samples were collected from the churchyard there.
This botanist is denoted by the author abbreviation Curtis when citing a botanical name.