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Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland. Nature-Printed by Thomas Bradbury

by Moore, Thomas; Lindley, John (Ed.)

  • Hardback
  • Used Book Availability : SOLD
  • This title has been delisted and is no longer available to purchase - please use the search field above to check if another copy is in stock, or contact us to record your interest in this title, if another copy becomes available we will let you know
  • Catalogue No : 37974
  • Published : 1855
  • Cover : Hardback
  • Pages : [162]


First edition. Nissen BBI, 1400.

The 1850s were the high point of the Victorian fern craze, and Thomas Moore (1821-1887), writer on horticulture, was ‘the supreme and unchallenged high priest of the [fern] cult’ (Allen, 1969). Moore had been a gardener at Regent’s Park when he was spotted by John Lindley, who in 1848 secured his appointment as Curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden. Henry Bradbury (1831-1860), senior partner in the firm of Bradbury & Evans, publishers of ‘Punch’ and winners of a Prize Medal at the Great Exhibition in 1851, hired Moore to write the text for an illustrated book on ferns using the pioneering method of nature printing (a process whereby natural objects are impressed into metal plates, from which electrotypes are taken that can be used in relief printing).

Bradbury had technical and practical knowledge of nature printing, which he learned from Staatsdruckerei, the Viennese Imperial Printing-office, responsible for inventing and patenting this innovative printing method, which they called ‘naturselbstdruck’. In exchange for access to this state-of-the-art technology, Staatsdruckerei requested that Bradbury should share his knowledge gained at their printing office with others in Britain. Shortly after his return to Britain in the spring of 1853, the firm Bradbury & Evans took out a patent for a method very similar to the ‘naturselbstdruck’ process, and despite protests from Austria, the firm set out to commercially exploit the Viennese printer’s patent.

The present book was first published in 1855, and it is known as the folio edition (an octavo edition was published 1859-60). Copies of the handsomely illustrated folio were presented to many rulers and heads of learned societies. Its nature prints are amongst the most finely produced in Britain, a contemporary reviewer praised ‘the elegance and delicacy of the objects represented, the almost miraculous fidelity with which they have been reproduced’ (Quarterly Review, Anon, 1857).

Henry Bradbury’s nature-printed illustrated books, such as his collaborations with Moore on British ferns, were directly competing with botanical books illustrated by lithography. Despite the success of the fern books, nature-printing did not endure. Henry Bradbury, not yet 30, took his own life in September 1860, and with his passing no one at Bradbury & Evans, nor anyone else, used this process again in Britain. (Cave, Impression of Nature, 2010).


Folio (600x400mm), orig. green moiré cloth boards, a little rubbed and scuffed with a few minor stains, gilt title to front board, rebacked and re-cornerd in green morocco with raised bands and gilt rules to spine, new endpapers; orig. green moiré cloth portfolio flaps relined; new cloth ties. Occasional spotting, but largley free from the foxing which is often found in this work. Short marginal tears to a few text leaves. Small grease mark to bottom edge of title-page.

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