John Hill was born in either 1714 or 1716 and was trained as a pharmacist. After working in that profession, in horticulture, and briefly as an actor, his well-received translation of a Greek treatise on mineralogy opened the door to a career as an author. The range of his production suggests a wide-ranging intellect: some 76 works in the fields of science, theology and naval history, as well as plays and novels. However, his most impressive and lasting achievements were in botany, especially The Vegetable System (1759-1775), a 26-volume work with 1,600 plates that he designed and etched himself, The British Herbal (1756) and Eden, or a Compleat Body of Gardening (1756-57). 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. The comments of his contemporaries suggest a colorful character who could be vain and opinionated, but indisputably hard-working and brilliant.
Condition: Recently professionally restored — cleaned and deacidifed, some light marginal chipping and short tears repaired verso with strips of Japanese tissue, and still lightly toned overall.
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.