Saturday, October 04, 2014

Succulent Carrion

"[S]till enjoying, though in the afternoon of life, a reasonable share of health and vigour, I am now ready to proceed to any part of the globe, to which your Majesty's commands direct me. Many are the portions of it that have not yet been fully explored by Botanists - all of them are equal to my choice. To extend the science of botany, to enrich the Royal Gardens at Kew, and to obey your Majesty's gracious commands, are the only objects of ambition that actuate the breast of Your Majesty's most humble, most dutiful, and most grateful Servant, FRANCIS MASSON." (source)
The genus Stapelia (tribe: Stapeliae, family: Apocynaceae^) consists of around forty low-growing, succulent plants from southern Africa. They may resemble cactus at times, but they are not related. The Stapeliads were a larger group back in the late 18th century when the illustrations below were first designed.

The main taxonomic characteristic in the 1790s was the extraordinary flower parts produced by most member species. In order to attract the blow flies that pollinate the flowers, many Stapelia species (and related/synonymous Orbea varietals) give off a stench of rotting flesh. The deceit is so effective that the flies lay eggs in the flowers, not realising there is no food to sustain emerging maggots.
"The hairy, oddly textured and coloured appearance of many Stapelia flowers has been claimed to resemble that of rotting meat, and this, coupled with their odour, has earned the most commonly grown members of the Stapelia genus the common name of 'carrion flowers'. [W
"[..] named by Linnaeus after the 17th-century botanist Johannes van Stapel, there are about 100 species taking their common names both from the flower shape and the smell of dead meat designed to attract flies as pollinators." [C]
The original sketches for the 1796 book 'Stapelia Novae' are not seen below. Instead, in what may be a first for this site, - intentionally, at any rate - the hand-painted sketches from 1814 displayed here are reproductions based on the illustration plates published in a 1796 book, 'Stapelia Novae', by renowned plant-hunter, Francis Masson.

Customarily, the quest for illustrations to post here would centre around either the original drawings or their earliest appearance in published form. But only two original Masson drawings are said to have survived and the few random chromolithographic plates (that *I* have found^) from 'Stapelia Novae' online are of variable quality. However, the meticulous watercolour studies below by the young HL Wendland, after Masson's designs, are impressive in their own right.

These images are slightly colour-boosted and have been modestly background cleaned of spots and age-related stains.

watercolour sketch of Stapelia plant
Stapelia ambigua

watercolour sketch: Stapelia divaricata
Stapelia divaricata

18th cent. watercolour sketch of plant
Stapelia reticulata

Francis Masson illustration of succulent plant
Stapelia pedunculata

botanical watercolour sketch
Stapelia ciliata

"I sailed for the Cape [with Cook aboard HMS Resolution] in the beginning of 1772, and remained there two years and a half. ... In the year 1786 I was sent out a second time to the Cape, and remained there near ten years, in which time I had opportunities more minutely to search that great tract of country; the various collections I have sent back from thence to Kew Gardens have been cultivated with ... much success... Two species only of Stapelia were heretofore described by botanists; the genus now promises a numerous harvest of species. In my various journeys through the deserts I have collected about forty, and these I humbly present to the lovers of Botany." 
[Masson in the Introduction to 'Stapelia Novae'].

Stapelia gordoni watercolour sketch
Stapelia gordoni

botanical watercolour sketch: S. glanduliflora
Stapelia glanduliflora

Strapelia illustration
Stapelia asterias

botany book prep drawing
Stapelia acuminata

Stapelia plant 1700s (sketch)
Stapelia campanulata

watercolour sketch
Stapelia irrorata

Stapelia vetula watercolour sketch
Stapelia vetula

'carrion flower' plant watercolour sketch
Stapelia sororia

succulent species book preliminary sketch
Stapelia gemmiflora

watercolour sketch - Stapelia mixta
Stapelia mixta

Famed botanist, Joseph Banks, returned to England in 1772 after a world voyage with Captain Cook. Banks was appointed Director of London's Kew Royal Botanical Gardens and was in close contact with his friend, King George III, a passionate gardener himself, who even maintained a residence at Kew. The King wanted to improve Kew's reputation in Europe and to that end, Banks sought out a Kew gardener to volunteer for a new role as Kew Gardens' first plant-hunter.

The successful applicant for the job was one Francis Masson (1741-1805) who had left Aberdeen in Scotland for a job as an under-gardener at Kew RBG when he was 19 years old. As the new plant-hunter, Masson was ordered by the Admiralty to join the first leg of Captain Cook's 2nd voyage of discovery aboard HMS Resolution which set sail for South Africa in 1772. This would be the beginning of his 33 year tenure as the official Kew Gardens plant-hunter (during which time he collected in excess of 1000 plants for Banks and Kew).
"Masson immediately embarked on a two month expedition into the interior, taking in the Stellenbosch and the Hottentot Holland Mountains. Sometimes working with Swedish Botanist Carl Thunberg and sometimes alone, Masson spent amost three years searching out new species of plants in South Africa. By the time he returned to Kew in 1775 he had sent back over 500 previously unknown plant species." [source]
"After exploring the Cape and working quietly at Kew for several years, Masson returned to plant hunting. In the late 1770s, he traveled to Madeira, the Canaries, the Azores, and Teneriffe before moving on to the West Indies. In the early 1780s, Masson sent back plants from Portugal, Spain, and finally North Africa. He endured numerous difficulties, including being caught in the crosshairs of a battle, a hurricane that destroyed all of his specimens, and raids by privateers. He began the winter of 1805 in Montreal, where he succumbed to the extreme cold of the Canadian winter at the age of sixty-five. By the end of his life, Masson had managed to introduce more than a thousand species of plants to Britain." [source]
"Although he did not have a strong education and published little, Masson established a solid reputation. [..H]e was intelligent, observant, and a born traveller. In the obituary of this “mild, gentle, and unassuming” man, the Montreal Gazette noted that “travellers who occasionally met him in remote countries . . . and men of science that knew his unremitting botanical labours and could estimate his talents, bear equal testimony of his merits and their writings incontestably evince his very uncommon success.”" [source]
A 23 year old German from a family of botanists produced the illustrations of succulents seen above in 1814. Heinrich Rudolf (HR) Wendland (1791-1867) was doing an apprenticeship at Vienna's Botanical Gardens at the time and had an interest in exotic plants. He would pursue a career in botanical research and publish a number of papers on Acacia species. Wendland's watercolour sketches of carrion flowers were based on the chromolithographs published in Francis Masson's 1796 book.  Wendland's collection of sketches is even bound with a hand-written reproduction of Masson's title page.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Oxonia Illustrata

It is well that there are palaces of peace
And discipline and dreaming and desire,
Lest we forget our heritage and cease
The Spirit’s work — to hunger and aspire:

Lest we forget that we were born divine,
Now tangled in red battle’s animal net,
Murder the work and lust the anodyne,
Pains of the beast 'gainst bestial solace set.

But this shall never be: to us remains
One city that has nothing of the beast,
That was not built for gross, material gains,
Sharp, wolfish power or empire’s glutted feast.

We are not wholly brute. To us remains
A clean, sweet city lulled by ancient streams,
A place of visions and of loosening chains,
A refuge of the elect, a tower of dreams.

She was not builded out of common stone
But out of all men’s yearning and all prayer
That she might live, eternally our own,
The Spirit’s stronghold — barred against despair.

C. S. Lewis' poem Oxford
published in 'Spirits in Bondage'
in 1919 under the pseudonym, Clive Davis [via]

'Oxonia Illustrata' consists of about 40+ engraved plates of Oxford University colleges, buildings, grounds and maps, as produced by the artist David Loggan in 1675. A sampling from two different editions are shown below.

The lighter, double-page images below were spliced - and 'massaged' - together from separate individual page files with differing magnifications, so apologies for any apparent anomalies in appearance. The brown or slightly darker illustrations were made available for download from another host (Folger) as full, decent-sized images, but can be seen at very high resolution on their site.

High arched interior of Oxford University building, 17th century
Interior of the Divinity School

Sheldonian Theatre
The Sheldonian Theatre

Univserity College courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library
University College [via]
University College
University College

The Conservatory for Evergreens courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library
The Conservatory for Evergreens [via]

Hortus Botanicus
Hortus Botanicus

Prospectus Oxoniae Meridionalis
Prospectus Oxoniae Meridionalis

Oxoniae Prospectus
Map of Oxford University & environs

Jesus College courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library
Jesus College [via]

Habitus Academici
Academic garments

Frontispiece - Bodleian Library
Frontispiece - Bodleian Library

Bodleian Library interior prospectus
Bodleian Library - interior scenes

Exeter College courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library
Exeter College [via]

Corpus Christi College
Corpus Christi College

Christ Church
Christ Church

Canterbury Quadrangle, St John's College
Canterbury Quadrangle, St John's College

Brasenose College courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library
Brasenose College [via]

All Souls College
All Souls College

David Loggan (1634-1692) was of Anglo-Scottish heritage but spent the first two of decades of his life in Danzig (Gdansk), Poland. He was fortunate enough to receive artistic training from a couple of leading lights of the print-art world in Willem Hondius^ in Danzig and later, in Amsterdam, from Crispijn van de Passe^.

Loggan emigrated to England in about 1657 and settled in London. His speciality was engraving, but he originally made a name for himself because of a pencil sketch he produced of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, just before Cromwell's death. Loggan gained further notoriety doing portraits of figures from the nobility (including King Charles II)  as miniature graphite drawings on vellum, a style of the time known as plumbago^. Chief among Loggan's other works from this period are an illustration plate of St Paul's Cathedral (1658), the engraved title page for 'The Book of Common Prayer'^(1662) and plates for William Dugale's 'Origines Judiciales' (1666).

In 1665, Loggan left London because of the plague and settled in Oxfordshire, from where his wife's family originated. In the following years, Loggan became acquainted with (and sketched portraits of) Oxford University elites, including Elias Ashmole, founder of Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum, and John Fell, Dean of Christ Church and one of the founders of Oxford University Press. At one point, Loggan is also known to have sold a printing press to the university.

It was probably John Fell's influence that saw Loggan appointed Engraver to the University in 1669, and his first task was to prepare a couple of illustration plates of the newly built Sheldonian Theatre, where the university press was (first) housed. Loggan and his assistants are thought to have produced title pages and plates for some of the books coming out of the Oxford University Press during his tenure, and a 1674 book on academic robes is also attributed to Loggan and his team.

A commission was received by Loggan to prepare bird's-eye view engravings of Oxford University's colleges, halls and buildings, together with prospect maps. His renowned 'Oxonia Illustrata' (1675) was intended to accompany Anthony Wood's 'The History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford' (1674). In the late 1600s, distinguished visitors to Oxford University were presented with copies of both books.
"Influenced by the work of Wenceslas Hollar, Loggan's meticulously detailed views were the first accurate representation of all the buildings and gardens of the university, and they have been an invaluable quarry for historians, antiquaries, and topographers ever since."(1)
Loggan returned to London, after 'Oxonia Illustrata' was released, and let rooms to wealthy patrons. He also produced views of Cambridge University colleges, buildings and grounds and the resulting publication, 'Cantabrigia Illustrata', was published in 1690. Later, as his portrait-sketching business was in decline, Loggan tried to take up the new fashion of mezzotint engraving, but apparently he suffered from an eyesight problem and he ultimately died in debt, and with few possessions, in 1692.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Baltic Heraldry

Family crests from Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania
in a 1902 calendar of colour woodblock prints

Each coat of arms^ has the corresponding family name printed (in some swish, Art Nouveau-influenced fonts!) on each illustration. Although only heraldic designs are shown below, the album actually consists of a brief calendar section, the series of heraldry illustrations, followed by short family histories.

Kalender (title page)









Luddinghausen Wolff









Bruhns publisher

"This publication [..] contains some two dozen coats and crests in colour of nobility of the Russian Baltic provinces, with short genealogical notices. The selection appears a representative one, and includes, among others less famous, such illustrious names as Rosen, Pahlen, Lieven, Wrangel, and Uexkhuell. The Pahlen-Koskull crest, Drie Schilkolben, is uncommon, and we do not remember another example of bulrushes as helm insignia.

The style of design is, of course, German ; but even for German work the drawing is extremely vigorous, and in some cases the directness of effect obtained is quite excellent, though here and there the detail has a tendency to woodenness (i.e., the fish in the Maydell coat), and the mantling is occasionally stiff. As chromo-xylography [w], too, the work is of great merit."
[source: The Genealogical Magazine 1902]

"The Baltic Coat of Arms Calendar, published by the book and art dealer E. Bruhns in Riga and the Riga Art Institute [..] was only published for one year: 1902. Further issues were well planned initially, [but] were never realised. The signature on some leaves [with MK artist] was Martin Kortmann who worked temporarily after 1900 in Riga for the art institute. After 1905 he returned to Berlin.  
The vertical format calendar contains 24 Baltic Crests for families, namely: Lode, Tiesenhausens, von der Ropp,  Buxhoewden,  Brackelsberg,  Meyendorff-Uexkuell,  Pahlen-Koskull,  Bremen,  Lieven,  Ungern-Sternberg,  Wrangel,  Aderkas,  Rosen,  Stackelberg,  Luedinghausen called Wolff,  Hahn,  Orgies, gene. Rutenberg,  Poll,  Fircks, Manteuffel called. Zoege (Szöge),  Foelkersam,  Maydell,  Rummel and  Howen. Artistic representations of the act, who probably set a clear target for simplicity, although heraldic correct, but awkward and wooden, far removed from the artistic design of a sovereign Otto Hupp."
[source (slightly paraphrased translation; last garbled bit left as is)]

'Baltischer Wappen-Calendar 1902' (Baltic States Coats of Arms Calendar) published in Riga by E Bruhns with illustrations by M Kortmann is available online in its entirety via the National Digital Library of Estonia. High resolution individual .tif files (50+Mb) are available.
[The images above are smaller versions of those with some colour boosting and removal of handwriting from the cover page] Please visit the source site to see both the complete heraldry illustration series and the overall layout of the book/album. Note there is a thumbnail page icon in the header section: 'Indeks'.
--Coat of Arms at Wikipedia.
--Baltic States at Wikipedia.
Previous related on BibliOdyssey:
This post first appeared on the BibliOdyssey website.

Creative Commons License