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Creator:
Burges, Mary Anne, 1763-1813.
Title:
Flora of the British Isles.
Published/Created:
Great Britain, circa 1790-1810?
Physical Description:
3 v. : ill. ; 38 cm.
Holdings:
Rare Books and Manuscripts
QL555.G7 B87 1810a+ Oversize
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Related Content:
View the catalog record for Burges's Lepidoptera of the British Isles: QL555.G7 B87 1810+
Classification:
Archives & Manuscripts
Notes:
Mary Anne Burges (of Devon, England) is perhaps best known as the author of The progress of the Pilgrim Good-Intent, a sequel of sorts to The Pilgrim's progress, published anonymously in 1800. She was a multi-talented, well-educated woman, accomplished in foreign languages, music, art, geology, entomology, and botany. Her garden was a source of constant delight and solace, and there is much talk in her letters of the variety of flowers in bloom at her home in Devon, as well as mention of her attaining seeds from America to see if they will grow in the soil of southwest England. Burges never married, but in 1795 she assumed the care of her cousin, Julia Somerville (1792-1879), the youngest of nine children orphaned by the death of Colonel Hugh Somerville. In 1816, Julia Somerville married Francis Bond Head, who would (in 1836) become the sixth Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada.
Watercolors of the flora of the British Isles, in three volumes, compiled by Mary Anne Burges, circa 1790-1810. The volumes comprise 157 mounted watercolors of (mainly) flowering plants, a single specimen per sheet of paper; each sheet measures approximately 21 x 14 cm. Most (perhaps 90%) of the watercolors are signed by Burges, "M.A.B." The remainder are either unsigned or initialed "J.S." The latter are likely the work of Julia Somerville, an orphaned cousin whom Burges cared for from 1795 (when Julia was just 3 years old) until Burges's death in 1813.
The watercolors are consistent in design. They depict a single stem or branch, and are scaled to fill most of the page. Almost all show the plant in flower; some depict a portion of the plant's roots. Insects and other extraneous subjects are entirely omitted. Coloring appears restrained and accurate. All the watercolors are executed on sheets of heavy wove paper, without watermarks. Within the bound volumes, each watercolor is placed within a larger window mount.
Each watercolor is annotated, in neat pen and black ink, with the Latin and common English names of the botanical species; some also include the common name of the plant in French, Italian, German, and Swedish. The Latin name is accompanied by the number assigned to the given species in Carl Linnaeus's Systema naturae, while the English name is accompanied by the number assigned to the species in William Withering's influential Botanical arrangement of all the vegetables naturally growing in Great Britain (first published in 1776).
A place name is written on the verso of most of the illustrations; presumably the place indicates where the species was drawn or taken. Most of the places are near Burges's home in Ashfield, near Honiton, in Devon, where she lived from 1786 until her death in 1813. A small portion are farther afield, in places such as Bath, Montgomeryshire, and Bowness (Westmorland).
A final annotation in graphite, also on the verso of most of the watercolors, appears to be in a different (perhaps later) hand. It notes the class and order of each species. These notes are likely the work of Francis Somerville Head, who notes at the beginning of volume 1 that he has "classified" and bound the collection.
The three volumes of flora accompany two additional volumes by Burges, similarly bound, on the lepidoptera of the British Isles. The two volumes of lepidoptera have been cataloged separately; a link to the record is provided herewith. Volume 1 of the flora includes an introductory note beginning "This hand painted collection of British flora and lepidoptera on a number of loose sheets by Maria Burges, and contained in an old box, was classified and bound in these five volumes by her great great nephew Francis Somerville Head in 1890 ..." This text is followed by a watercolor self-portrait of an older Mary Anne Burges, along with a brief family history and family tree, in manuscript.
All three volumes have the armorial bookplate of Francis Somerville Head.
Bound in gilt-tooled brown morocco, by Zaehnsdorf, 1890, with spine title: Flora of the British Isles.
Upon the death of the Burges, the volumes may have been given to her brother James Blanc Burges. Later, they were assimilated into the library of Burges' lifelong friend (and relation) Elizabeth Simcoe. See: Longchamps.
Longchamps, D. Elizabeth Simcoe (1762-1850) p. 83-84
Subject Terms:
Burges, Mary Anne, 1763-1813 -- Portraits.
Burges, Mary Anne, 1763-1813.
Burgess family.
Flowers -- Pictorial works.
Gardens -- Great Britain -- Pictorial works.
Head, Francis Somerville, 1846-1941.
Linné, Carl von, 1707-1778. Systema naturae.
Plants, Ornamental -- Pictorial works.
Somerville, Julia Valenza, 1792-1879.
Withering, William, 1741-1799. Botanical arrangement of all the vegetables naturally growing in Great Britain.
Women in natural history.
Zaehnsdorf (Firm) -- Bookbinder.
Form/Genre:
Botanical illustrations.
Scientific illustrations.
Self-portraits.
Ink drawings.
Watercolors.
Armorial Bookplates (Provenance)
Sketchbooks.
Contributors:
Somerville, Julia Valenza, 1792-1879.
Head, Francis Somerville, 1846-1941.
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