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pl. 16 Abies Albertiana
A very detailed hand colored lithograph by Edward James Ravenscroft (1816-1890)from his monumental book "The Pinetum Britannicum: A Descriptive Account of Hardy Coniferous Trees Cultivated in Great Britain." which was printed in Edinburgh and London in 1863-1884. Overall this print measures 22" x 16.25".The development of botanical illustration in many ways echoes that of other art forms in that it is influenced by politics, philosophy and, of course, science.  Perhaps at no time was this more pressingly visible than during nineteenth-century Britain where the aspirations of an expanding Empire resulted in a national pride that fostered scientific discovery as well as art.At the heart of this movement were the newly crowned Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. As Consort rather than King, Albert?s role was somewhat ambivalent and although he acted as a valuable advisor to his wife, it was the Queen alone who bore responsibility the operations of government.  He, thus, was obliged to find his own interests and became a valued patron of the arts and sciences. His involvement in the coordination of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in large part helped to ensure its success.The popularity of the Royal family established it as the arbiter of fashion and the nation, like their monarch, developed a passion for the countryside and nature.  In 1852 Albert and Victoria purchased the Balmoral estate located in the Scottish Highlands, resulting in a rebirth of landscape painting. The philosophies of John Locke, Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who defended the principle of rational enquiry placing great value upon the study of nature, had been crucial to the development of the seventeenth-century landscape movement and many of these ideas remained in the British psyche. Trees, flowers, mountains and valleys were not merely pretty things whose visual splendors were to be noted, but they broadened the spirit.Therefore, it is with little surprise that Edward James Ravenscroft dedicated his large three folio work on pine trees, Pinetum Brittanicum, to the memory of the much adored Prince Consort, Albert. In December 1861 the Queen?s husband died leaving her emotionally devastated and plunging the Empire into mourning.  Ravenscroft could not have thought of a more appropriate dedication, as it was the German-born Albert who had introduced the Christmas tree tradition to Britain.Ravenscroft?s publication is widely considered to be one of the greatest works on pines and is lavishly illustrated with colorful and refined depictions of many varieties of pine trees from both sides of the Atlantic.  For example, The "Wellingtonia" ?" of "Washingtonia," as Americans proposed to call it ?" now Sequoiadendron giganteum, was a recent arrival in Britain, having been discovered in California about 1850. Bark and cross sections with a diameter of 96 feet had been displayed in New York and at the Crystal Palace in London. Many of the illustrations in the Pinetum Brittanicum portray the trees in parks or other natural settings with human figures included in the compositions, belying Ravenscroft?s ostensibly scientific goal in producing the work.  Despite the great artistry and aesthetic appeal of the images, however, the publication is a testament to the great nineteenth-century fascination with natural history, as well as the impulse to classify and catalogue--two interests that went hand in hand and intensified dramatically over the course of the 1800s.  In 1754, the great Swedish naturalist, Linnaeus, asserted in his dissertation entitled Flora Angelica, that whereas at the beginning of the previous century the English seemed little suited, indeed alien, to the study of botany, they had produced by the end of that century as many botanists as the whole of the rest of Europe.  Ravenscroft was one of the great talents to emerge in this period in the field of natural history illustration, combining aspects of beauty and science--normally considered antithetical--with apparently effortless grace. John Lindley contributed botanical descriptions for the first three parts, and Andrew Murray and Maxwell T. Masters wrote the remainder.  The work was ostensibly based upon Charles Lawson?s much smaller monograph describing the range of conifers growing in Great Britain, which Edward Ravenscroft was able to bring to completion. Amongst the subscribers to the book were the French Emperor Napoleon III, who requested 30 copies and Queen Victoria. Great institutions such as the British Museum and Oxford and Cambridge Universities also subscribed to the text. However, due to historical and financial upheavals, work on the Pinetum was suspended, but resumed again and it was issued complete in 1884.  The end result clearly justified the decades-long production, for these subscribers did not cancel their sponsorship but recognized the scope and quality of Ravenscoft?s splendid publication on pines as a work that would remain unmatched.Overall this print is in fair condition with foxing/staining and water damage to top margin. Browning of paper throughout.
      [Bookseller: Arader Galleries]
Last Found On: 2014-10-02           Check availability:      Biblio    

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