Title: Early New Zealand Botanical Art

Author: F. Bruce Sampson

Publication details: Reed Methuen, 1985, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: F. Bruce Sampson

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Early New Zealand Botanical Art


Curtis's Botanical Magazine is the oldest surviving colour-illustrated journal. The first volume was published in London in February 1787 with the title Botanical Magazine: or Flower-Garden Displayed by William Curtis (1746-99). It has become, in the words of Wilfrid Blunt (The Art of Botanical Illustration), "a national institution of which Englishmen may justly be proud". Curtis's aim was to produce a scientifically accurate, coloured magazine for those interested in botany and horticulture, to illustrate and describe "the most ornamental foreign plants", thereby introducing them to gardeners. New Zealand plants were not neglected, and by 1973, 135 of our native plants, from forty-three families, had been illustrated. In some instances, as with the rengarenga or rock lily (Arthropodium cirratum) and the whau, Entelea arborescens (Plate 1), the first published description appeared in Botanical Magazine. It is something of an anachronism, for until volume 165 (April to December 1948) all the plates had been coloured by hand, apart from a few chromolithographs in one issue. From 1950 onwards, a costly, four-colour gravure process has been used, which gives results close to those obtained by hand-colouring. For many years one could obtain uncoloured copies and save money — thus, in 1911, "Monthly, price 3-f. 6d. coloured, 2s. 6d. plain".