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Botanical Illustration: Home

Terms & Definitions

Scientific Illustration:
An artistic-scientific discipline whose purpose is to synthesize and represent information so that it is able to be interpreted by a specific public. A scientific illustration must objectively and accurately represent the subject. It should not be confused with naturalistic or hyper-realistic illustration. [x]

Botanical Illustration:
used to illustrate floras, monographs, field guides and research papers. The boundaries between botanical art and botanical illustration are often indistinct, separated more by purpose than style. [x]

A utilitarian book that describes (and often illustrates) herbs and their culinary and medicinal properties. [x] Most ancient societies produced some form of herbals.

From the latin flos (flower) and legere (to gather), florilegium (plural: florilegia) translates literally to: "a gathering of flowers". [x]
Florilegia differ from herbals in their emphasis on showing the pure beauty and color of each flower, rather than informing on its botanical and medicinal values. [x] The tend to contain very little to no text. (In other contexts this term is also used in a similar way to anthology)

A collection of preserved plants stored, catalogued, and arranged systematically for study. [x]

The plants of a particular region, habitat, or geological period. A book or other work detailing the plants of a particular region or habitat. [x]

What is Botanical Art and Illustration

Botanical illustrations are used to illustrate floras, monographs, field guides and research papers. The boundaries between botanical art and botanical illustration are often indistinct, separated more by purpose than style - botanical illustrations are primarily used to inform. [x]

This guide is for anyone interested in botanical illustration. It provides resources to various institutions and organizations(both collecting organizations as well as those supporting current artists), and introductory sources to various topics in the realm of botanical illustration. For those who are perhaps totally new to the topic definitions and a sampling of works are also provided.

I envision this guide being used in an institution who either collects botanical art or has an adjacent purpose (ie a garden or herbarium) such as the Arnold Arboretum. These types of institutions tend to have users with a wide range of interest level therefore this guide has been arranged in a way to hopefully suit the needs of both of various groups.

It should also be noted that this guide's scope is limited, mostly, to the western english-speaking world.

Collections & Databases

Online Collections and Databases

Libraries & Other Collections

Conium maculatum. (Hemlock).

Bigelow, Jacob, 1786-1879 (Artist)
From: American medical botany: being a collection of the native medicinal plants of the United States, containing their botanical history and chemical analysis, and properties and uses in medicine, diet and the arts, with coloured engravings

Celsia Arcturus

Mary Delany 1700-1788 (Artist)
formerly in an album (Vol.II, 72); Bastard Mullein.

White lilly.

Blackwell, Elizabeth (Artist)
From: A curious herbal, containing five hundred cuts of the most useful plants, which are now used in the practice of physick

Pimpinella maxima Canadensis

Cornut, Jacques Philippe (1606-1651) (Author)
From: Iac. Cornvti ... Canadensivm planatarvm, aliarumque nondum editarum historia. Cui adiectum ad calcem Enchiridion botanicvm parisiense, continens indicem plantarum, quae in pagis, siluis, pratis, et montosis iuxta Parisios locis nascuntur

Bracket fungus; a section of oak tree polypore

Potter, Beatrix (1866 - 1943) (Artist)

Meconopsis Nepalensis, dc.

Fitch, W. H. (Walter Hood) (1817-1892) (Engraver)
Hooker, Joseph Dalton, Sir (1817-1911) (Author)
From: Illustrations of Himalayan plants : chiefly selected from drawings made for the late J.F. Cathcart, of the Bengal Civil Service

Clintonia unifolia

Walpole, Frederick Andrews (1861-1904)(Artist)
Accession Number: 6787

Telosma odoratissima (Lour.) Coville

Smith, James Edward (1759-1828)(Author)
From: Icones pictae plantarum rariorum descriptionibus et observationibus illustratae

[31] leaves of plates

c. 1640
Robert, Nicolas (1614-1684) (Artist)
From: Variae ac multiformes florum species expressae ad vivum et aeneis tabulis incisae

2 p. l., 84 p.

c. 1730
Merian, Maria Sibylla (1647-1717)(Creator)
From: De Europischen insecten, translated from De Europische insecten, naauwkeurig onderzogt


Merian, Maria Sibylla (1647-1717)(Creator)
From: a posthumous edition of Merian’s work, published as Dissertation in Insect Generations and Metamorphosis in Surinam