The Hortus Nitidissimis was published somewhat erratically between 1750 and 1786 as a periodical intended, when collected, to form a superlative collection of botanical prints. The publication was also to include notes from a competent horticulturalist which would provide guidelines on cultivation of the depicted flowers.
The work was begun by the noted Nuremburg engraver and illustrator J. M Seligmann, and was based on the drawings collected from various artists by the famous physician and amateur botanist Christopher Jacob Trew.
The drawings which Trew provided, and the garden which he possessed, enabled the engravers and illustrators involved to produce a unique work which remained unsurpassed until the introduction of more intricate printing techniques nearly a century later. Although the plates were produced using engraving techniques common to the period, each plate was completed individually through hand colouring. The variations in plates between different known volumes, (some of which are so extreme as to appear to depict different cultivars), indicates that more than one artist was involved in this process. These variations literally render every volume of the work unique.
The periodical issues themselves were available in two forms, the less expensive copy on German Paper, and the superior printing on Dutch paper. This variation of paper base has resulted in much of the deterioration which is extant on the known copies. For example, the German paper appears to be more acidic than the Dutch equivalent, this has resulted in some of the lead-white pigment used in the painting of white petals to turn black, while the Dutch paper equivalent remains as white today, as the day it was painted.
It is also regrettable that the extended period of production (36 years) resulted in many collectors not being capable of acquiring the complete work. There are only a few volumes which contain the entire production, although many major institutions and private collectors possess copies.
In order to make this landmark work easily available to the public, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Natural History Museum, London, through the assistance of the Andrew Mellon foundation have digitised both of their volumes and acquired additional material and make them available, via the internet. Issues of paper quality and the variations in the hand colouring have been discussed intensely, and from the material available, an 'ideal' copy has been assembled which the creators hope will be the most complete, while remaining true to the original intentions of the publishers.
We hope you will enjoy the Hortus Nitidissimis, one of the greatest horticultural treasures of the 18th Century.