The first edition was issued in 60 weekly parts relating respectively to the plants of the particular gardening season. According to the introduction: “We shall treat Gardens from their Origin, Design, and first Construction, to raising them to Perfection, and keeping them in that condition; and we shall consider, in our Course, their Products, whether of Use, Curiosity, or Beauty. These we shall describe in their several Seasons, suiting our Publications to the Time of their Appearance.” Each of the 60 plates in the first edition featured an average of six to seven different plants drawn in a naturalistic style and arranged in graceful compositions. The second edition contained an additional 20 plates, each of which illustrated a single species.
John Hill was was initially trained as a pharmacist, and became a man of diverse talents in the the Age of Enlightenment, with expertise and skills in horticulture, art, acting, etc. His well-received translation of a Greek treatise on mineralogy opened the door to a career as an author. His range of works suggests a broad intellect: some 76 books in the fields of science, theology and naval history, as well as plays and novels. However, his most impressive and lasting achievements were in horticulture and botany as an artist and scientist. Hill was prolific producing numerous color plate botanical books; his most popular and enduring work was Eden, or a Compleat Body of Gardening (1756-57), a comprehensive color plate set on plants to be cultivated in British gardens. Hill is credited with introducing the Linnaean system of botanical nomenclature to England, though he disagreed with some aspects of it and reinstated some pre-Linnaean names in own works. In 1750, he received a medical degree from the University of St. Andrews, and was later knighted by the King of Sweden, which permitted him to use the honorific “Sir.” He also worked as a gardener at Kensington Palace and apparently participated in planning what would become the great botanical garden at Kew. According to scholar Blanche Henrey, “[n]ot only was [Sir John Hill] industrious and energetic, but his writings show him to have been a man of real ability and genius” (vol. II, p. 91). The comments of his contemporaries suggest a colorful character who could be vain and opinionated, but indisputably hard-working and brilliant.
Title: Eden: or, a Compleat body of gardening, containing plain and familiar directions for raising the several useful products of a garden … compiled and digested from the papers of the late celebrated Mr. Hale, by the authors of the compleat body of husbandry. And comprehending the art of constructing a garden for use and pleasure; the best methods of keeping it in order: and the most perfect accounts of its several products
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling, the flowers retaining bright hand coloring.
Blunt, Wilfred, rev. by Stearn, William T. The Art of Botanical Illustration. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors Club, 1994. pp. 170-171.
Brindle, John V., James J. White and Donald E Wendel. Flora Portrayed: Classics of Botanical Art from the Hunt Institute Collection. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie-Mellon University, 1985. 559.
Dunthorne, Gordon. Flower and Fruit Prints of the 18th and Early 19th Centuries. Their History, Makers and Uses, with a Catalogue Raisonne of the Works in Which They are Found. Washington, D.C.: Published by the Author, 1938. 129.
Henrey, Blanche. British botanical and horticultural literature before 1800. 3 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1975. II, 90-98 and no. 805.
Nissen, Claus. Die Botanische Buchillustration: ihre Geschichte und Bibliographie. Stuttgart:1951-66. 880.
Sitwell, Sacheverell. Great Flower Books, 1700-1900. New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990. p.100.
Tomasi, Lucia Tongiorgi and Rachel Lambert Mellon. An Oak Spring Flora: Flower Illustration from the Fifteenth Century to the Present Time. New Haven: Yale University, 1997. 53.