The Magnificent Flora Graeca

How the Mediterranean Came to the English Garden

Stephen Harris

The Magnificent Flora Graeca

Stephen Harris

Distributed for Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

200 pages | 100 color plates | 9-3/4 x 9-3/4 | © 2007
Cloth $60.00 ISBN: 9781851243068 Published December 2007 For sale in North America only

The publishing of the Flora Graeca was a landmark event in 1830. Only 25 copies were published, due to the book’s size of 10 double folio volumes and its numerous illustrations, and it cost over £620, a colossal sum at the time. The Flora Graeca brought together beautiful renderings of the fruits of the travels of British scientist John Sibthorp, who made multiple trips to the eastern Mediterranean in the early nineteenth century to collect a rich array of exotic floral specimens. Now The Magnificent Flora Graeca chronicles Sibthorp’s immense undertaking, including brilliant selections from his groundbreaking volume.

          The story of the expeditions of Sibthorp and his renowned illustrator Ferdinand Bauer is a tale replete with larger-than-life characters and adventures on land and sea. Harris profiles the lives of Sibthorp, Bauer, and other leading characters, and explores the Flora Graeca’s rich cultural and scientific legacy. Sibthorp’s pioneering adventures unearthed floral specimens previously unknown to science, as he collected the originals of such popular garden flowers as the Crocus flavus ssp. flavus, the parent of the Golden Yellow; and Cyprus’s Cyclamen persicum, the parent of the widely grown garden cyclamens species.

          This new volume, drawn from photographs of Sibthorp’s remarkably well-preserved specimens and luminous reproductions of the original watercolors and engravings by Bauer, features more images from the Flora Graeca than have ever been published since its first printing.

          A fascinating treasure of floral wonders, The Magnificent Flora Graeca is an essential addition to the bookshelf for the plant lover or anyone curious about the natural history behind their beloved garden retreats.


1. Never in beauty surpassed: a flower among Florae
2. Gentleman and student: John Sibthorp
3. Order out of chaos: Sibthorp's botanical framework
4. A future Source of Fame: planning the Flora
5. Soon to tread Classick Ground: Sibthorp sets out
6. Thro' Perils and Dangers: Sibthorp in the Ottoman Empire
7. Surpass all that I have seen: Bauer's illustrations for the Flora
8. A prudent Man with a beautiful Mistress: Sibthorp and Bauer
9. Never suffered so much in my Life: Sibthorp's second journey
10. Dreamed not of dying: making the Flora
11. The fame of our deceased friend: the legacy of the Flora Graeca

Picture credits
Review Quotes
L. G. Kavaljian | Choice
"An elegantly and beautifully printed reproduction of parts of the very rare Flora Graeca. . . . Many of the original exquisite watercolors and hand-colored engravings as well as photographs of expedition-collected specimens are interspersed throughout the book. . . . Recommended."
Shirley Sherwood
“Stephen Harris has written a superb account of the story of the Flora Graeca. I have seen the originals and their beauty and exquisite detail are faithfully recorded here.”--Shirley Sherwood, author of New Flowering: 1000 Years of Botanical Art
Michael S. Gant | Metro Newspapers
"The full-page color illustrations offer convincing proof of Bauer's genious; his ability to reproduce even the tiniest variations of spines, leaves, and petals is breathtaking. Side-by-side reproductions of the original watercolors and their engraved versions display an unmatched level of craftsmanship by the anonymous colorists. Even more amazing are the black-and-white field sketches, which Bauer coded with numbers from a color chart. Relying only on these numbers, Bauer created astonishingly accurate watercolors full of delicately rendered colors."
Sir Roy Strong
“The extraordinary story of one of the most famous and beautiful of all botanical books is here vividly brought to life in this ravishing publication.”--Sir Roy Strong, former director of the National Portrait Gallery and Victoria & Albert Museum
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