James Sowerby: Coloured figures of English fungi
Sp Coll Bower f6-9
James Sowerby (1757-1822) was an engraver and botanical artist who trained at the Royal Academy. His skilful work illustrates several natural history books of the period; he worked, for example, on William Curtis's Flora Londinensis, and drew the first plate for Curtis's Botanical Magazine (the Persian Iris, shown above). He ceased working for Curtis in 1790 upon beginning a collaboration with James Edward Smith to produce a complementary serial publication, English Botany. This was the first comprehensive account of the indigenous flora of Britain, published in 36 volumes between 1790 and 1814. It did not, however, describe British fungi and so Sowerby produced Coloured figures of English fungi to accompany it. Sowerby made 440 drawings and many models of fungi for this survey; the models were made expressly to aid identification of the edible and poisonous species, and some are still preserved to this day in the Natural History Museum. Sowerby also wrote the explanatory text. In the preface to the work, he enthusiastically encourages the more active cultivation of mushrooms and fungi, emphasising their usefulness in cooking and dyeing, as well as their ornamental properties.
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