This post was written by Jeanie Smith & Isabelle Chevallot, Assistant Guildhall Librarians for History Day 2021.
Guildhall Library, the Library of London History, is delighted to be taking part in History Day 2021 which will focus on “environmental history in its broadest sense, encompassing the experiences of ordinary people, collectors and scientists, looking at nature, landscape, climate change and much more.”
In this blog we will celebrate the treasures to be found in in the Library of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners housed at Guildhall Library since 1891. The collection has offered horticultural reading pleasure to our library users ever since and now contains over five hundred volumes. To these are added volumes from our own London history collections, celebrating the history of gardening in the capital.
Here are some gems from the collection which you are welcome to enjoy in future visits to the library. Click on the links to find out more.
“Musaeum Tradescantianum” (1656) by John Tradescant
Gardeners and collectors the John Tradescants, a father and son, were gardeners to King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. They created a museum of curiosities at their home in Lambeth which was known as ‘The Ark’. The contents of the museum were listed by John the Younger in his “Musaeum Tradescantianum,” one of the first museum catalogues to appear in England.
“Kalendarium Hortense: or The Gard’ner’s Almanac: Directing What he is to Do Monthly Throughout the Year and What Fruits and Flowers are in Prime” (1691) by John Evelyn
The “Kalendarium Hortense” offered practical advice for the 17th century gardener and in doing so offers us insights into horticulture in that period. It is one of the earliest gardening calendars and gives advice on work in the kitchen and flower garden as well as listing each month’s ‘prime’ flowers and vegetables.
“The City Gardener” (1722) by Thomas Fairchild (1667 – 1729).
Member of the Gardeners’ Company and an important innovator in the history of gardening, Thomas Fairchild is best known as the producer of the first deliberate hybrid. This was a cross between a sweet william and a carnation known as ‘Fairchild’s Mule.’ In 1722 he published his “City Gardener,” which described the trees, plants, shrubs, and flowers which would thrive best in London.
William Curtis (Praise & Pudding)
“Flora Londinensis: Containing a History of the Plants Indigenous to Great Britain, Illustrated by Figures of the Natural Size” (1777) by William Curtis.
William Curtis (1746–1799) attempted to document the flowering species within a 10-mile radius of London. A project lasting twenty years, it was lavishly illustrated and published in six large volumes.
“Hortus Gramineus Woburnensis” (1816)
This ‘herbarium’ (collection of dried preserved specimens that document the identity of plants and fungi) is an early 19th century ecological experiment. The work was directed by George Sinclair for the sixth Duke of Bedford. It was highly regarded by Charles Darwin who made use of it for his “Origin of Species”.
George Loddiges (Botanical Cabinet)
“The Botanical Cabinet” 1817-1833 George Loddiges
Hackney nurseryman George Loddiges (1786–1846) promoted his collections of plants and ferns in a publication called “The Botanical Cabinet.” The serial which ran from 1817-1833 included around 2000 coloured plates of rare plants from around the world.
Jane Loudon Webb: The Ladies’ Gardener
“The Ladies’ Flower Garden of Ornamental Annuals” (1842) by Mrs Loudon.
Horticulturalist, novelist and journalist Jane Loudon Webb (1807-1858) wrote nineteen books on natural history and botany, many of them instructional and aimed at the female amateur. She was also a talented botanical artist.
A selection of books and pamphlets on market gardening from Guildhall Library’s collections.
Market gardening or growing for profit developed in the sixteenth century as towns became large enough to allow making one’s living as a commercial grower viable.
“The Floral World and Garden Guide” (1871) edited by James Shirley Hibberd.
Born in Stepney in 1825, Hibberd began his career as a bookseller, but was writing articles on horticulture long before it became his profession. He became expert in the cultivation of fruit, flowers and vegetables. “Floral World” was a monthly publication aimed at amateur gardeners of moderate means. Hibberd reported on the progress of his own garden projects in each issue, thus helping gardeners find practical solutions to their gardening problems.