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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 today.
Although trained as a medical doctor, Thornton (c. 1768-1837) passionately devoted himself to botany, a study that had only a few decades earlier established itself as a modern science through Carl Linnaeus's revolutionary new system of botanic classification based on the structure of blossoms. Thornton greatly honored the ingenious Swedish scientist and wished his own prodigious undertaking to serve as an ultimate monument to the great botanist. Today, Thorton's extremely diversified and at times long-winded texts may lack botanical significance, but the large-format plates with their allegorical depictions and stunning floral portraits number among supreme achievements of botanical illustration.
Including all the plates of the Temple of Flora, this large-format volume represents a consummate edition of the work. Only a few original copies with a complete collection of plates are extant-and access to them is extremely limited. Detailed close-ups underline the beauty and the artistic perfection of the prints, which were in the end usually colored and worked by hand. In addition to the botanical and cultural historical explanations of the individual plate illustrations, The Temple of Flora narrates the history of the origin of the work and the life of its author.
The unbound version consist of plates that come in a cloth-bound clamshell box which includes a 44-page multilingual booklet with a essay on the background of the flora, written by Werner Dressendörfer.
Werner Dressendörfer, pharmaceutical historian and lecturer at the universities of Erlangen and Wurzburg, is currently conducting research into the history of healing plants from a socio-cultural viewpoint, with a focus on the symbolism of plants and their role in superstition. He is the author of a number of pharmaceutical publications and scientific papers on the Late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance.