A stunning achievement in botanical illustration
The complete reprint of all color plates from Robert John Thornton's monumental work The Temple of Flora, first published in London in 1799. Presented as 33 loose-leaf Elephant folio-sized color prints as well as a booklet including an introduction and explanations of the 31 botanical plates
The year 1799 witnessed the first installment of a work that has gone down in history as one of the most remarkable books of botanical plates ever published. Two centuries have passed since the publication of Robert John Thornton's The Temple of Flora, but its charm remains unsullied. Although trained as a medical doctor, Thornton (c. 1768–1837) passionately devoted himself to botany. Only a few decades earlier, Carl Linnaeus had established his revolutionary new system of classification, which today continues to form the backbone of such natural sciences as botany and zoology. Thornton greatly honored the ingenious Swedish scientist and wished his own prodigious undertaking to serve as an ultimate monument to the great botanist.
Today, Thornton's large-format plates with their stunning floral portraits number among supreme achievements of botanical illustration. Thornton engaged the most renowned flower painters of his age and spared no cost in the creation of this unique work. His reckless enthusiasm, however, reduced his originally considerable fortune so drastically that, sanctioned by Parliament, Thornton had to organize a botanical lottery in order to bring his spectacular project to a provisional end. Surviving complete editions of the Temple number today among the great treasures of only a few libraries; meanwhile, the individual plates have become sought-after and extremely expensive collectors' items, whose particular allure lies in their unusual combination of monumental, at times exotic plants with highly romantic background landscapes. More than any other floral painting, the bewitchingly illuminated blossoms of the Night-Blooming Cereus, posed before darkening ruins, expresses the late 18th-century sentiment that in the following decades found its characteristic expression in European Romantic literature and painting.
Including all the plates of the Temple of Flora as loose-leaf color prints, this large-format edition represents a consummate reprint of the work. In addition to the botanical and cultural historical explanations of the individual plate illustrations, the volume narrates the history of the origin of the work and the life of its author. This resplendent reprint has been made from one of the finest complete original copies, belonging to the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.
TASCHEN’s Temple of Flora consists of the following, packaged in a presentation case:
- a 44-page booklet including author Werner Dressendörfer’s introduction as well as the texts of the 31 botanical plates
- 33 loose-leaf Elephant folio-sized color prints for browsing or framing