This web site is the culmination of a joint project between the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Natural History Museum with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to make available one of the great florilegias of the 1700s, the Hortus Nitidissimis.
The Hortus Nitidissimis was probably the best work born of the collaboration between the artist Georg Dionysius Ehret and the learned doctor and amateur horticulturalist Christoph Jacob Trew, but is rarely found in a complete form.
In 1956, Sacheverell Sitwell* wrote of the 'Great Flower Books' including the Hortus:
"But locked away in museums, and to a lesser extent in private libraries, are beautiful and quite unknown albums of flower drawings that are in prison, as it were, and only visited at rare intervals by a mere handful of amateurs and students."
He further lamented that:
"This hiding away and seclusion of original flower drawings which is, apparently, insurmountable and an obstacle to the general appreciation which will never be overcome."
No one in the middle of the 20th Century could have imagined the revolution in communication technology which would enable the custodians of these 'imprisoned florilegia' to be able to make them available for the general appreciation of all as dreamed by Sacheverell. Merely fifty years from his writing of these lines, the internet has facilitated the removal of all 'insurmountable obstacles.' Today, this web site can provide, not only online copies of those volumes held by The Natural History Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens (undoubtedly the volumes viewed by Sacheverell), but with the inclusion of additional material from the Arnold Arboretum, can provide the most complete 'virtual' copy for the enjoyment of everyone.
* Sitwell, S and Blunt, W : Great Flower Books 1700 – 1900: a bibliographical record of two centuries of finely-illustrated flower books; London : Collins, 1956