Temple of Flora | State Library of New South Wales

Temple of Flora

Robert Thornton (c. 1768-1837) was a wealthy man who decided to invest his fortune in a lavish botanical production illustrating Linnaeus’ sexual system of classification. The third part of this production appeared between 1799 and 1807 and was called Temple of Flora. Almost all known copies differ slightly in the way they are made up, making each unique. In general, they consist of 28 spectacular coloured botanical plates interspersed with verse, allegorical tales and folklore. Without an influential patron, Thornton lost his fortune on the production, blaming the public’s lack of enthusiasm (and ready cash) on the Napoleonic wars. Today, Thornton’s Temple of Flora is considered one of the greatest floral books ever published, thanks to the quality of the artists who produced paintings for the plates. These included Peter Henderson and Philip Reinagle. Thornton himself painted the roses shown below.


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The temple of Flora: or, Garden of nature, being picturesque botanical plates of the New illustration of the sexual system of Linnaeus, by Robert John Thornton,  London : Printed for the publisher [i.e., the author], 1799
Printed volume SAFE/ RB/ RX581.9/ 1 
Published as Part 3 of the author's New illustration of the sexual system of Carolus von Linnaeus, 1807. The title is engraved on the recto of 2 leaves, the second of which begins: Picturesque botanical plates, and is dated 1799; this date also appears on some of the plates.


 > View the complete text and images of Temple of Flora on the Library's catalogue Link to catalogue