240 pages, 170 Col plates, 33 figs
This lavishly illustrated volume contains a stunning collection of botanical drawings belonging to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. The watercolours were commissioned by Alexander Gibson, an East India Company surgeon, and depict plants grown in the botanic garden under his control in the Bombay presidency. They are the work of an unknown Portuguese-Indian artist and were produced between 1847 and 1850. The main section of the book includes colour reproductions of the 170 drawings arranged in the order of the Bombay Flora, which Gibson coauthored. Half the species depicted are native to western India, whilst the other half are exotics from as far afield as Australia and Argentina. The colour plates are preceded by chapters on Gibson's life and work, and a history of Dapuri and Gibson's other botanic gardens.
The Dapuri Drawings were unearthed from the archives of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and brought to the fore by a benefactor wishing to create a memorial to her husband and a celebration of their life in India together. The works of a 19th century, unnamed, probably Portuguese Indian artist, they are painted in a faintly naive oriental style, enchanting in their simplicity compared to Western botanical artists of the time. Many are not botanically correct but information enough is gleaned to give a picture of the plants, both indigenous and imported, grown at Dapuri Botanical Gardens and at neighbouring Hewra in Western India. Arranged in the order of Gibson and Dalzell's definitive work "Bombay Flora", it is divided into two sections to cover those plants native to India and those exotics imported from countries as far away as South America, Australia and Europe. Although no trace of the gardens remain today, Noltie travelled the length and breadth of India in his quest for more information on them and, in particular, the instigator of the drawings, Alexander Gibson. This Scottish-born surgeon turned botanist was Superintendent of Dapuri, originally sent to India whilst working for the East India Company as a doctor. His love of the country and its flora led to the development of these two gardens and the exchange of plants and seeds from all over the world. But this is not only a book of botanical illustrations. This is a fascinating account of the social history of the time: the servant hierarchy in this caste-system country, an account of the utility crops grown together with the ornamentals, an analysis of the outgoings of running such a garden and the labour needed to look after it. Lists of expenditures, plants grown, vegetable planning and more are included to give a full picture of 19th century India under British rule. Botanical historians, artists and gardeners with an interest in the origin of commonly grown plants such as Silene armeria and Antirrhinum majus will find this tome of interest and the beauty of the prints more than justify its presence on any bookcase. - Lucy Watson
Foreword by Professor Stephen Blackmore Foreword by Mehroo Dinshaw Chapter 1. In Search of Dapuri Chapter 2. The Life and Work of Alexander Gibson Chapter 3. A History of Dapuri and the District Gardens Chapter 4. The Artist and the Drawings THE DRAWINGS Glossary and Place Names Acknowledgments Bibliography Notes and References Index
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