The Life and Work of Sydenham Edwards FLS

We are very priviliged to be able to reproduce an extract from the ground-breaking article on Sydenham Edwards that is an extract from 'The Life and Work of Sydenham Edwards FLS, Welshman, Botanical and Animal Draughtsman 1768-1819 by Kevin L. Davies, in Minerva: the Journal of Swansea History published by the Royal Institution of South Wales/Friends of Swansea Museum, Swansea 2001.

The first part of the article discusses the botanical tradition in Wales and then Dr Davies provides the following background information on William Curtis:

The author of Flora Londinensis was a brilliant botanist named William Curtis (1746-1799) who was born at Alton, Hampshire, England. The son of a Quaker tanner and apprenticed at 14 to his grandfather the local apothecary, he was trained to study simples, that is, individual plant species for their medicinal properties. His interest in plants captivated him and if it was the grandfather who kindled the fire, it was James Lagg, the peculiarly literate and learned ostler of the Crown Inn next to the apothecary shop, who supplied the fuel. A great admirer of the herbals of Gerarde and Parkinson with their odd mix of botany and superstition, this man encouraged Curtis in his pursuit of botanical knowledge and under hs mentorship Curtis's interest in natural history flourished. He began to read other books on natural history, started his own herbarium and began to collect insects and birds' eggs as well as becoming an expert on birdsong. Finally, he was wholly consumed by his passion and seduced away from the profession which had been chosen for him.

At the age of 20, Curtis left Alton for the City of London where he begrudgingly worked for a time as an apothecary's assistant in Gracechurch Street and then as a partner in an apothecary's practice. But his love of natural history still beckoned and unable to reconcile his medical career with his real interest, Curtis eventually sold out to his partner and bought a patch of land on which to grow plants. He continued enthusiastically to botanize the environs of London, to cultivate his garden at Bermondsey and to exchange his ideas with men of similar disposition. In 1772, at the age of 27, Curtis, presumably short of money, was appointed Praefectus Horti and demonstrator to the Society of Apothecaries at the Chelsea Physic Garden which had become internationally renowned under the curatorship of Philip Miller. Miller had corresponded with botanical gardens from all over the world and his skill as a gardener had made Chelsea 'excel all gardens for excellence and variety'. Curtis's literary output was such that it was necessary for him to become one of the first users of short hand. He soon published a book on insects and translated and illustrated a similar book by Linnaeus. His increasing fieldwork eventualy resulted in the publication of his Catalogue of Plants growing Wild in the Environs of London.

By now Curtis had embraced a strong desire to establish a botanic of his own which would be open to subscribing patrons, although he changed its site three times in the process. These patrons, fora guinea, received plants, seeds and free admission to Curtis's botany lectures. When a proposed course of lectures failed to materialise at Chelsea, he arranged one himself on botany and horticulture in his own garden at Lambeth Marsh close to St Georges Fields, Magdalen Hospital and situated somewhere between present day Westminster Bridge and Waterloo Railway station. Here he grew medicinal, culinary and crop plants, English wild flowers, trees and shrubs. This garden became known as the London Botanic Gardenand opened its gates to the public for the first time on 1 January 1779. Many such lectures were to follow. He ultivated some 6000 species of plants here. However, his own personal interest was the British flora, in particular those plants to be found within the neighbourhood of London.

In 1777, overburdened by work, Curtis left the employment of the Chelsea Physic Garden and with the support of Lord Bute, continued with his preparation of Flora Londinensis, a series of coloured folio illustrations and descriptions of plants which grew within a ten mile radius of London. The first part was published later that same year, but was not a success. Wilfrid Blunt and William T. Stearn in The Art of Botanical Illustration (1995) summarized Curtis's endeavours on the Flora thus:

'For ten years he continued perseveringly at his congenial but unremunerative task; by 1787 the results of his labours were two splendid folio volumes and a deficit which made the continuance of his venture impossible. He understood the cause of the problem and he saw the remedy, if his clients refused to buy folio pictures of the unassuming plants that grew by the wayside, he would win their patronage with octabo-engravings of the bright exotics which filled their gardens'

In 1787, the Botanical Magazine or Flower Garden Displayed was produced in response to the 'repeated solicitations of several ladies and gentlemen for a work in which Botany and Gardening, or the lavours of Linnaeus and Miller might happily be combined'. It was an enormous success. As Curtis himself said , it brought him 'pudding' whereas the Flora Londinensis had only brought him 'praise' since, the Flora Londinensis despite its beautiful illustrations, was a dismal failure.

However, back in Wales, there was one eleven year old boy whose heart the Flora Londinensis had captured, so much so that he was sufficiently inspired to copy and paint some of its illustrations for himself. That young artist was Sydenham Edwards, the son of a Welsh schoolmaster and organist at Abergavenny.
A certain Mr Denman, a close friend of Curtis, happened to visit Abergavenny in 1779 where he chanced to see some of young Edwards' copies of plates from the Flora. Denman was so impressed by these that he showed the copies to William Curtis who promptly sent for Edwards and had him instructed both in botany and botanical illustration.
That fortuitous encounter set Edwards on the road to becoming arguably the most prolific and talented botanical artist of his day, and the mere volume of his artistic output serves to remind us that this young man probably did more than anyone else, either before or since, to bring botany to the masses. Whereas only relatively few had been lucky enough to receive instruction in botany and Latin, all, regardless of educational status, could appreciate a beautiful picture. Against a backdrop of botanical expeditions fraught with danger to remote parts of the world and the public's unquenchable thirst for botanical knowledge and above all, for coloured illustrations of the most recently discovered and novel plants, Edwards' future as a botanical illustrator par excellence was assured.

PUDDING FOR ALL.Who was Sydenham Edwards? In one sense it probably neither matters who he was nor who his relatives were- the quantity and quality of his artistic work and his immense contribution to botany is sufficient testimony that he was a prolific and enormously talented botanical artist. In another sense, however, in order to establish Sydenham Edwards as a Welshman and to know something of his background, it is essential that we ascertain his parentage. Herein lies a problem; so much of the little that is known of his early life is contradictory.
Most sources cited generally agree that he was born at Brynbuga (Usk) and baptised by his uncle the curate Rev. William Reece at Llantilio Crossenny Church on August 5th 1768. A few still claim that his birthplace was Abergavenny. However, most concede that by 1779 his father was both a teacher (probably at King Henry VIII Grammar School) and organist at the latter town. Thus, it has been proposed that by 1779, the family either still resided near or in Abergavenny. After all it was there that Mr. Denman discovered the young Sydenham. Apart from his professsion, information about the father is scant. Nevertheless, several sources have been most productive.

In 1910, T.H. Thomas, clearly having referred to the earlier work of the Reverend T.Mardy Rees, reported in the Transactions of the Cardiff Naturalists Society that Col. J.A. Bradney of Talycoed 'the historian of the county of Monmouth' had been able to finally establish that the artist was in fact the son of a certain gentleman, Lloyd Pittell Edwards and Mary Reece who were married at Llantilio Crossenny Church on September 26th 1765, the very same church where Sydenham was christened three years later. Last year (2000), at my request, the present minister at Llantilio Crossenny, the Reverend Heidi Prince re-examined the church records and was able to confirm that this was so. His mother, it seems, was a sister of the Rev. Wm. Reece, Curate of Llantilio Crossenny who in 1766 married Ann Mackafee. Their son, Richard Reece later became a distinguished physician and author of several works on medicine. Bradney maintains that these same Reeces, probably of Usk but latterly of Cardiff were derived from the ancient Welsh Chieftain, Rhys Gock. Relatively little is known of the artist's live and acquaintances during those years directly following Mr Denmans visit to Abergavenny in 1779 and Edwards summons to London. It seems that he remained throughout his life a religious man and in later life regularly worshipped at Chelsea Old Church. Similarly, we cannot be sure where he lived during the very early years. However, , it is evident from records held by the Royal Academy of Arts that for some time, up until about 1792, he dwelt at 23 webber Row, St George's Fields, conveniently close to Curtis's Botanical Garden. His address until about 1798 is then given as the Botanical Gardens, Brompton. Later, he moved to 2 charles Street, Queen's Elm, Chelsea, where he remained until about 1799, and then 11 charles Street (according to plates from cynographia Britannica, c. 1803), following which time he lived at 5 Barrossa Place, Queen's Elm which is presumably where he died, seemingly unmarried, in 1819. Hubbard (1991), however, claims that Edwards spent his last days at Charles Street but in fact his burial certificate gives his abode as Barrossa Place.

Undoubtedly, immediately following his arrival in London he was instructed in botanical illustration and it appears that he was both a conscientious and an industrious student. What is certain is that within nine years he was to become a most proficient botanical artist, as testified by the publication in February 1787 of his first illustration for the Botanical Magazine (Vol11, Plate 39) - a gloriously vivid and well-observed study of the carnation 'Franklin's Tartar'. By the time that Curtis had found it necessary to aabandon his Flora Londinensis in 1798 as a result of financial difficulties , some 21 (fascicle 6- Blunt & Stearn, 1995) of the 434 hand coloured plates in that work had already been drawn by his young protege. Judith Magee of the Natural History Museum, however, has re-examined that fascicle and reports that in fact 27 plant portraits had been drawn by Edwards (pers.com.,2001).
Edwards' study of Franklin's Tartar is noteworthy for several reasons. Firstly, whereas a number of earlier illustrations in the Botanical Magazine (e.g. Black Hellebore or Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger Vol. I , Plate 8 - April 1787 and Hepatica or Noble Liverwort Anemone hepatica (now Hepatica nobilis) Vol. I, Plate 10, May 1787) portray all the vegetative parts of the plant including the subterranean organs such as rhizomes and roots, often anterior and posterior views of the flowers as well as stages in development from bud to anthesis, Edwards' first illustration for that magazine was a much simpler affair. In keeping with the increased emphasis placed on the reproductive structures by Linnaeus, namely the flower and its constituent parts, much of the portrait is occupied by a single blossom, the vegetative aspects being reduced to a single branching stem bearing a few small leaves. Similarly, developmental stages are represented by a single bud and subterranean features are absent.

Secondly, the subject was one of the few florist flowers to be admitted to the work. Whittle and Cook (1981) claim that the carnation at that time was 'regarded as the apogee of artisans' flowers' and that 'by the end of the 18th Century three kinds of show flowers had evolved; Bizarres, Flakes and Picotees'. Franklin's Tartar was a Bizarre Border Carnation, the plate itself was 'Published by W. Curtis Botanic Garden, Lambeth Marsh' and engraved by James Sowerby (1757-1822) the talented author and illustrator of 2,500 drawings for English Botany (1790-1814) and who, together with Edwards and William Kilburn (1745-1818), took on the responsibilities of illustrating the Botanical Magazine. His are also some of the unsigned drawings in the first volume. On this evidence, it is likely that this superb carnation was being grown at that time in Curtis's first Botanic Garden at Lambeth Marsh, but it has alas since completely disappeared from cultivation .
For the next 28 years (1787-1815) Edwards was seemingly responsible for all except 75 of the 1,721 water colour drawings for the Botanical Magazine as outlined on its title page and preface was to illustrate and describe 'the most Ornamental FOREIGN PLANTS, cultivated in the Open Ground, the Green-House and Stove' aand to provide the 'best information repecting their culture, the specimens being always drawn from the living platn and coloured as near to nature, as the imperfection of colouring will admit'. The first part, which contained three plates namely Iris persica, Echinacea purpurea and Eranthis hyemalis was published on 1 February 1787.Three thousand copies were sold at a shilling each with an average of 45 plates being published annually, although the number of figures in each part and the price fluctuated over the years.Where Flora Londinensis had failed, the Botanical Magazine succeeded and by now William Curtis, courting a nation proccupied with botany and horticulture, despite the financial straits he had encountered over the Flora , finally began to prosper. If the Botanical Magazine had indeed brought him 'pudding' then it must surely be acknowledged that it was the incessant efforts of his young artist, Sydenham Edwards, which largely provided it.

THE LONDON YEARS.The 'Age of Enlightenment' (1740-1850) brought about an increased interest in botany and horticulture and this in turn led to the foundation in 1759 of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Under the leadership of the renowned botanist Joseph Banks (1743-1820), Kew soon developed into the leading European botanical institution. Scientific explorations of Australia, Asia, south Africa and America followed and resulted in the introduction of numerous platns hitherto unknown to science. By the 1790's, some 5,000 exotic plants were in cultivation at Kew and, no doubt inspired by the Royal collection, those who had the financial means sought to procure the same species to decorate their own gardens and 'stoves' and thus impress their visitors and friends. Gardens were redesigned as the landscapes and vistas made popular by Capability Brown (1705-1783) yielded to the flowere gardens of Humphry Repton (1752-1818). Horticultural nurseries flourised and many employed their own collectors who plundered the tropics and , indeed, often lost their lives in search of the rare and exotic. This great interest in horticulture culminated in the foundation of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1801. Those of more modest means and ambitions, in particular those of more serious botanical aspiration, searched the local hedgerows and meadows for specimens, which they would press for their herbaria. Whereas on the one hand newly discovered and often flamboyant tro0pical species created a stir and commanded great publicity, on the other, the dried collections of horti sicci of the amateur botanists were equally important in establishing the diversity and geographical distribution of the native flora of Britain. The importance of dried collections became apparent in 1783, when James Edward Smith purchased the famous Linnaeus herbarium and some five years thereafter founded the Linnean society.

The public's appetite for botany and horticulture demanded to be satisfied. The small ripple of interest which had met the Flora Londinensis in 1777, had, by the closing years of the eighteenth century, reached high tide, and it is estimated that between 1780 and 1810 alone some 30 illustrated botanical books, periodicals and horticultural/botanical publications had appeared. All this was to have a direct bearing on the work and livelihood of Sydenham Edwards. In such a rarefied and appreciative environment, any talented botanical artist would surely prosper. The public demanded quality illustrations of the newest and most colourful plants that were suitable for growing in British gardens, and this is exactly what Edwards provided in the Botanical Magazine.
Wilfrid Blunt (1995) in his classical work The Art of Botanical Illustration states:

'A great botanical artist must have a passion for flowers. You can set a good architectural draughtsman to draw a flower, and he will give you, if he thinks the subject worthy of real effort, a careful and precise study of the plant before him. But unless he loves what he is drawing, unless he knows the flower in all its moods, in all the stages of development, there will be something liacking in his work'.

The workmanship of Sydenham Edwards clearly fulfilled all these criteria perfectly and on the basis of Blunt's definition, we are compelled to cosider Edwards as one of the great masters of botanical illustration. His capacity for beautiful composition which in no compromises the need for scientific accuracy, his eye for detail, his obvious sensitivity and love for the subject, whether it be a bud at the brink of anthesis, an unfurling petal, stamens in the various stages of dehiscence or a withering leaf, all these aspects are portrayed in a moment of time, all apparently drawn with the artistic freedom and licence of the flower painter, but their portrayal is in fact strictly restrained by the straight-jacket of botanical convention. Indeed, perhaps the simple distinction between a flower painter and a botanical artist is that the subject of the latter can always be identified to specific level by a competent botanist, as it will be accurate in all its parts. For example, a botanical artist whom I know once painted a rhododendron. She didn't know its name and when some months later, she presented her work to some experts in the field, a lively discussion regarding its identity ensued. Finally, one of the experts identified the plant on the basis of the underside of the leaf. The artist had shown a small area of the leaf which was coated with a bronw tomentum. Although she didn't know the palnt by name, she had captured all that was there not knowing that this felt of brown hairs would prove to be the distinguishing taxonomic feature that would finally allow the plant to be named. Had these hairs been omitted, the painting whilst still beautifully executed, would have been scientifically useless. Instead, she received an award for botanical illustration from the Royal Horticultural Society for her series of rhododendron paintings. That said, Edwards' obituary refers to him as not an artist but a 'botanical and animal draughtsman'.

Of course, by the time Edwards had taken up his appointment as artist for the Botanical Magazine, the principles of botanical illustration had already been well established in Britain , and in general, were largely based on the working practices of Georg Dionysious Ehret (1708-1770) who was 'the dominant influence in botanical art during the middle years of the eighteenth century'.

Ehret was born at Heidelberg, into humble circumstances where his parents cultivated the land and sold garden produce. It was his father who introduced him to drawing, a pastime he continued to enjoy at Bessingen where he was put to work as a gardener's apprentice with his uncle. His mother, following his father's death, married the fardener to the Elector of Heidelberg, a man named Kesselbach. Young Ehret was given part charge of one of the two gardens under Kesselbach's care. Soon Carl Wilhelm, the Margrave of Baden-Durlach was to encounter Ehret and take him into his own service at Karlsruhe where he continued to paint flowers during his leisure hours. It seemed he received preferential treatment from his employer and this caused such animosity amongst the rest of the staff that the situation became intolerable and the Margrave and Ehret, with great reluctance eventually parted company, but not before the Margrave had vented his anger on the rest of his staff. In these early years, Ehret's talent was largely unappreciated, as evidenced by the dreary chore he was set by a Regensburg banker named Leskenkoh, that of copying the Hortus Malabaricus, or his treatment at the hand of Johann Wilhelm Wienmann whose Phytanthoza Iconographia he illustrated for starvation wages and having completed some 500 drawings, was sent away with less than half the agreed sum.
Finally, Ehret's luck changed when Dr Christoph Jakob Trew (1695-1769), a wealthy Nuremburg physician with a great interest in botany and bibliography, happened tow view his work and soon became his lifelong patron and friend. Trew impressed upon Ehret the importance of making exact representations of the plants he saw before him, and commissioned and encouraged him to use more exotic plants as the subjects of his paintings. During 1734-35, Ehret painted watercolours for the Jardin du Roi at Paris and at Bernard de Jussieu's recommendation, soon came to England where he was introduced to Sir Hans Sloane and Philip Miller at the Chelsea Physic Garden of the Society of Apothecaries. However, a lack of commissions prompted him to move on the Hartecamp, Holland where an influential Anglo-Dutch banker, George Clifford, commissioned him to paint flowers from his garden in preparation for the Hortus Cliffortianus which was published in 1738. Here too, he met Linnaeus who familiarized him with his Sexual System of plant classification. Ehret returned to England in 1736 where he remained until his death, undertaking work for the Chelsea Physic Garden, Oxford Botanic Garden, Patrick Browne's The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica (1789), Dr Trew's Plantae Selectae (1750-1773) and Hortus Nitidissimis ...(1750-1786) as well as for members of the English aristocracy.
Numerous botanical artists followed in the footsteps of Ehret, most notably the brothers Franz and Ferdinand Bauer, James Sowerby and Edwards himself. The Bauers, like Ehret, were of Germanic birth but made England their country of adoption. They are described by Wilfrid Blunt as 'the greatest exponents of botanical drawing in England since the death of Ehret'. However, unlike many botanical artists of the time, they supplemented their accurate habit-type illustrations with detailed drawing of their observations through the microscope. Space precludes a detailed account of their lives. Sufficient to say that in 1784 John Sibthorp, Sherardian Profesor at Oxford arrived in Vienna to study the Codex Vindobonensis of Dioscorides, before setting out on his botanical tour of the Levant in order to identify the medicinal plants referred to in the manuscript. There he met Ferdinand Bauer and persuaded him to record in watercolour all that they were to see. Ferdinand returned to Oxford with Sibthorp and there prepared the finished drawings for Sibthorp's Flora Graeca. Franz visited his brother at Oxford, and there Banks offered him, the day before he was due to leave for Paris, the post of botanical draughtsman at Kew, an opportunity which was to change the course of his oife. Thus, Frnaz spent the last 25 years of his life living and working at Kew. Ferdinand Bauer did not accompany Sibthorp on his second expedition to the Levant in 1794-95. Sibthorp returned from the East a sick man and died of tuberculosis the following Spring. However, in 1800, Ferdinand accompanied Matthew Flinders and the young Scottish botanist Robert Browne, considered by many as 'the greates figure in the whole history of British botany', on a voyage of exploration to Australia. After his return to England some years later, he began to prepare plates for his Illustrationes Flora Novae Hollandiae (1813) but, discouraged by the dearth of good engravers and people who could colour his plates, he decided to undertake the task himself,, only to find his work difficult to sell, largely since war menat that many of the potential patrons now lacked the financial resources necessary and had become tired of the 'endless succession of costly botanical books which appeared year after year'. The same fate had awaited Thornton's Temple of Flora (1799-1807), which incidentally, featured a single plate drawn by Sydenham Edwards. The project was abandoned and Ferdinand returned to Germany where he eventually completed his work on the Australian Flora and Fauna. He made many botanical excursions into the Syriand and Austrian Alps and returned once more to England before his death in 1826 to visit his friends, which no doubt included Sir Joseph Banks.

Syedenham Edwards could hardly have done better than to aspire to produce work equal to that of Ehret and the Bauer brothers. However, it is probable that his real role models were closer at hand and their work was no less inspiring. Both William Kilburn (1745-1815) and James Sowerby (1757-1822) had prepared drawings for the Botanical Magazine and had also drawn for the Flora Londinensis, possibly those very plates which had inspired Edwards many years before and which he had copied as a child. Indeed, so well did Edwards aspire to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors that Alice M. Coats in her book The Treasury of Flowers (1975) refers to Sydenham Edwards and James Sowerby as the 'Heavenly twins of British botanical illustration in the early nineteenth century'.

Indeed, William Kilburn was the first artist to be engaged by Curtis. He was the son of a Dublin architect and although he was apprenticed to a local calico printer, he passed his spare hours engraving and drawing. On moving to Bermondsey following his fathers death, he settled close to Curtis's nursery garden and was soon persuaded to assist as draughtsman and engraver for the Flora Londinensis. Soon however, he was attracted back into calico printing, opened his factory, made much money and became very influential.Sowerby 'was a considerable scientist of wide intereste, an artist of distinction and a talented engraver' who 'depended largely upon portraiture and teaching for a living'. It is known that 70 or more plates in the first four volumes of the Botanical Magazine are his as well as about 50 of the plates in the fifth fasciculus of Flora Londinensis and a hundred original paintings entitled 'Horta Sylva Montis' drawn about 1787 from plants growing in the garden of Curtis's friend, the physician John Oakley Lettsom at Grove Hill, Camberwell. He also illustrated Sir J. Smith's Icones Pictae Plantarum Rariorum (1790-93), Aiton's Hortus Kewensis (1789) and his own works An Easy Introduction to Drawing Flowers according to Nature (1788) and Flora Luxurians (1789-91). He is, however, best known for producing and probably engraving some 2,500 drawings for English Botany (1790-1814) which effectively ended his active association with Curtis. After 1797, he made 440 drawings for Coloured Figures of English Fungi and after 1806 he was engaged in engraving most of the plates for Sibthorp's Flora Graeca. Both a botanical genus, Sowerbaea, and a whale Mesoplodon sowerbiensis were named in his honour.Both Sowerby and Kilburn had eventually left the employmentof Curtis to pursue their own interests. Edwards however remained until Curtis's death in 1799 and until that time had remained his faithful friend and companion on botanical expeditions. He continued to furnish the Botanical Magazine with drawings, until about 1815 when, following a disagreement with Curtis's friend Dr. John Sims, who had assumed the general management and directorship of that publication, he severed his connection with the Botanical Magazine and commenced together with John Ridgway on the production of the rival Botanical Register, thus invoking upon himself the reproaches of the Curtis family.

THE ARTIST AND HIS ARTThere is no doubt that Sydenham Edwards was a fine botanical artist. During his lifetime, the popularity of the numerous volumes he illustrated whether they be great botanical works, entomological or ornithological monographs or reference books, testify to this. Even now, almost two centuries after his death, his handiwork is avidly collected by biologists and art lovers alike.

Edwards' obituary describes him as 'an accurate and able botanical and animal draughtsman... surpassed by few... who has perhaps designed a greater number of objects than has fallen to the lot of any one artist of his day'.

Wilfrid blunt, the distinguished art critic and author of The Art of Botanical Illustration, in comparing the work of Sydenham Edwards with that of James Sowerby, describes Edwards as:'... a conscientious and indrustrious artist but his line lacks the swiftness of Sowerby's. In his early work his colour, especially his green, is sometimes harsh and his hatched and stippled tone laboured until it becomes lifeless. His later drawings for the Botanical Magazine which are now stronger and show a better understanding of the structure and habit of the plants portrayed'
However, let us not forget the main purpose of the Botanical Magazine, within its pages 'the most ornamental foreign plants... are accurately represented in their natural colours'. Yes, it was a work of art and had aesthetic appeal. Moreover, it contained 'the most approved methods of culture' but above all it 'accurately' portrayed plants enabling them to be identified by both professional and amateur botanists. All distinguishing features of taxonomic importance were included and these were summarised in a Latin diagnosis. In short, like all good botanical artists, Edwards resisted the temptation to sacrifice scientific accuracy for the looser style of the flower painter even if this resulted in a degree of stiffness.

Indeed, Samuel Curtis, the relative of William Curtis who took over the copyright of the Botanical Magazine after William's death in 1799, was to say of Edwards that 'the drawings of the Magazine were entirely his own for many years and were executed with a correctness not before known in periodical publications'. Likewise, T.H. Thomas in his paper to the Biological section of the Cardiff Naturalists Society (1910) had only praise for Edwards and again emphasized Edwards' attention to detail. Thomas states that the 'Botanical Magazine... shows Edwards' powers well; the plates were engraved in slightly shaded outline, were printed in blace or dark red ink and then coloured by hand after the original drawings. All show most careful drawing, and a certain stiffness shows that the camera lucida was sometimes used. The artist felt that exactitude was everything'. This, it appears that what Blunt refers to as stiffness is in fact an attempt by the artist to capture accurately the form of the plant, to which end he employed camera lucida whereby the plant outline was traced directly on paper. This considerably reduced the inaccuracies which would inevitably be introduced when drawing 'free-hand'. In short, from a botanist's stand-point, a poorly composed yet accurate illustration is exceedingly more useful than an artistic but sloppy one. Edwards understood this.

Thomas, in contrast to Blunt, states that those illustration in the Botanical Magazine which were prepared by Sowerby 'are certainly inferior to those by Edwards'. consequently, in his opinion Sydenham Edwards 'must be considered one of the very best artists in his style produced by the British School'. Indeed Edwards, in 1792, when only 24 years of age, exhibited his work for the first time at the Royal Academy of Arts. That work was entitled 'a pair of goldfinches'. In total, between 1792 and 1814, he was to exhibit a total of twelve pictures at that predigious institution.
That Edwards was capable of a freer style of botanical illustration is evidenced in his plates for the Botanical Register. As this was his own venture, perhaps he felt less constrained to keep the excessively rigid guidelines he had been taught by Curtis and for the first time, found freedom to execute the work as he pleased. The first volume was published in 1815 by which time Edwards had been elected as a Fellow of the Linnean Society.

Thomas informs us that here we find Edwards' 'best work in floral design. There is even more botanical exactitude, and at the same time more freedom as to the decorative aspect of the plants'. The Botanical Register, whose text was initially provided by J.B. Ker-Gawler and later by Dr. John Lindley, like its predecessor, the Botanical Magazine, proved to be a huge success. Alas, Edwards was only able to complete illustrating the first four volumes as on 8 February 1819, a mere four years after leaving the Botanical Magazine, he died at Queen's Elms, near Brompton in his fifty-first year, he was buried at Chelsea Old Church on the 16th of that month and a tablet was erected to his memory.

Even so, his legacy to the nation was a wealth of original artwork and sketchbook prints which would continue to bring pleasure to thousands, long after the artists name had largely been forgotten.

These illustrations had been broadly divided into three groups; botanical subjects, zoological and ornithological subjects and micellaneous subjects. The latter class may also contain artwork based on floral or animal subjects but these were not intended for scientific use.
The most important botanical works in which his work appears area Flora Londinensis, The Botanical Magazine, The New Flora Britannica, The Botanical Register, Collectanae Botanica, The Complete Dictionary of Practical Gardening and The Temple of Flora.
Edwards also illustrated the natural history section (vol. 45) of Rees's Cyclopaedia. Only a small protion of these plates were botanical, the majority comprising animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates, and engraved by Milton and Scott. One of these 'Lion, Lioiness and Young' appears in T.H. Thomas' article (1910). Rees's Cyclopaedia is said to have outclassed the Encyclopaedia Britannica of that time and 'remains a monument to the memory of another native of Wales, namely, Dr. Abraham Rees, the Encyclopaedist, who was a native of Llanbrynmair, Montgomeryshire... The plates are far beyond any work of the kind in England of the period in costliness and in skill. They are all engraved upon steel in the best style of the time' (Thomas 1910).

T.H. Thomas also claims that following the death of his parton William Curtis, Edwasrs appeared in a new character, that of a draughtsman of animals, and that he soon embarked upon Cynographia Britannica, a work illustrating the various kinds of dog breeds in Great Britain and elsewhere. It was issued in six parts the first costing 7s 6d and is now extremely rare. Edwards had greatly admired dogs and it had always been his dream to produce such a work. He was a 'keen observer of sheepdog working and lore' (Hubbard 1991) and it seems that he had been involved on occasion with the training of local sheepdogs. Perhaps his love of dogs and their use in hunting explains the large number of hunting dogs and gamebird species he illustrated during his lifetime, the odd picture of decoys for waterfowl and his contributions in the Sporting Magazine. Edwards states in his introductory statement to Cynographia Britannica; 'Dogs are honest creatures, they never fawn on those they love not, and I'm a friend to Dogs'. Despite its wonderful illustrations Cynographia Britannica was never a success and faced with competing publishers and a lack of time, it was eventually abandoned. Another reason for its lack of success, according to Hubbard (1991), may have been the prospectus, which read 'any information regarding Dogs transmitted to the Author (post paid) will be gratefully acknowledged under its particular head.' Hubbard believes that 'to drag a precise and sensitive observer of nature down to the level of the bulk readers' letters (even if post paid) was abhorrent to Edwards'. Consequently, such is the rarity of the work today, that in 1991 a complete copy in initialled parts was estimated to be worth £30,000.

Ornithological and entomological subjects are well represented. In 1989, three bird paintings signed by Edwards were auctioned. Although much of Edwards' work was watercolour on paper or sometimes vellum, all of these had been painted with gouache on vellum but watercolour had also been used on one. this serves to demonstrate Edwards' versatility and proficiency in using a variety of media and surfaces.

In some ways. the group contained in the miscellaneous class are more interesting in that they tell us something of Sydenham Edwards' personality and lifestyle. not just about his work. A volume in tha Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, Tring, seemingly a sketchbook of a series of 67 leaves bound together between apparently contemporaneous covers, contains a variety of sketches of figures, birds and animals (loosely drawn but not intended for accurate scientific publications) as well as floral sketches, possibly embroidery patterns.
In the mid eigteenth century flower painting and embroidery were already fashionable and this, at least in part, may account for the success of so large a number of botanical periodicals. Thornton, in 1804, referred scornfully to the Botanical Magazine as 'a drawing book for ladies' and Jane Loudon, in referring to the cheaper, partly coloured edition of the Botanical Cabinet, said that 'to complete the colouring of these plates, and to add M.S. notes in the margin would be a charming and instructive female exercise'. Indeed. Samuel Curtis himself had four daughters, all of whom helped illustrate the Botanical Magazine. Thus, it is speculated that Edwards, possibly in order to supplement his wages, may have taught flower painting or designed floral embroidery patterns for the daughters of the wealthy, much in the same way as Sowerby had depended upon portraiture and teaching for his livlihood.

EDWARDS' INFLUENCE ON THE DECORATION OF BOTANICAL CERAMICSIt sees that is was the Chelsea porcelain manufactory, during its red anchor period who was the first in Britain to copy or adapt botanical illustrations for the decoration of ceramics. Much of their inspiration came from the drawings and engravings of Ehret who had worked for Sir Hans Sloane and Philip Miller, at Chelsea.

Flower painting on Chelsea plates is characterized in that the plants or pieces of plants, such as flowers of leaves, appear to have been scattered across the surface of the plate. Although it was the artistry of Ehret which inspired the decoration, it is by the name of his patron Sir Hans Sloane that such pieces are generally known. However, Ehret was not the only botanical atrist to have worked at Chelsea, although he is the only artist to whom any of the illustrations have so far been traced (Le Rougetel, 1990).Le Rougetel (1990) in her The Chelsea Gardener: Philip Miller 1691-1771 states that:'... two distinct types of botanical embellishment were used at Chelsea: some showed dissected plants and were obviously copied from engraved plates in authoritative works, while others were taken from live plants. Some designs have been traced to illustrarions in Miller's Figures althought they had to be adapted to fit the curved surfaces of porcelain pieces. It is noteworthy that the majority are of plates starting with the letter 'A' which, as has been explained, proportionately outnumbered the other letters in the Figures, Avies, Abrotanum humile, Acacia, Acanthus spinosus, Anonis, Anthemis and Antholyza were all used and in some instances butterflies and insects were added... an almost exact reproduction of Bocconia, which appeared as plate IV of Trew's Plantae Selectae, is featured on a plate now on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and from {lantae et Papiliones rariores, two more Ehret illustrations were used: Iris and Alcine (VI) and Convolvulus (VII).'

If Chelsea had been the first to use botanical decoration, Derby my justifiably claim that it was the first manufactory to copy named botanical illustrations on to porcelain. Such pieces had the name of the illustrated plant inscribed ontl the base, either as the English vernacular or as the Latin binominal.

In 1771, William Duesbury, co-partner of Derby, bought up Chelsea although the latter continued to produce in his name until 1784. At Derby, the painting of named plants became a speciality. The distinguished Derby scholar Andrew Ledger (1991) records that the production of the botanical series at Derby began in the summer or autumn of 1791 and that in April or that year, William Duesbury had purchased the first four volumes of the Botanical Magazine. Such a wealthy source of botanical illustration was essential if every piece of a dessert service was to be decorated with a different specimen. In the wake of resurgence in matters botanical, and the increased wealth which followed industrial success, it seems that members of the wealthy public were obsessed with their renewed love for flowers. Not satisfied with growing the most flamboyant and exotic blooms in their gardens and stoves, purchasing the newest and most gloriously illustrated botanical and horticultural tomes and having their daughters instruced in flower painting, they now demanded flowers on their porcelain, both for their beauth and as a public statement of refined sensibilities and growing affluence of the owner.

So popular were these botanical services that many other manufacturers followed suit. Indeed, at Swansea, Lewis Weston Dillwyn, the owner of the Cambrian Potteries, himself a mist distinguished botanist and phycologist, employed William Weston Young, who had prepared many of the illustrations for Dillwyn's book on algae, British Confervae, at the pottery. Moreover, he impressed upon Thomas Pardoe, his specimens onto ceramics. It is widely reported that Dillwyn drove home the need for batanical accuracy to such and extent that Pardoe eventually could take no more and left. However, not all ceramic artists were as accurate as Pardoe and many ceramic examples exist where the copier has completely misinterpreted the structure of the flower. Conversely, there were some excellent artists. However, if one is merely seeking boatnical accuracy, one cannot beat the original prints.

The author's research into Davenport botanical wares indicates that by about 1815 the first ten volumes of the Botanical magazine were available to the pottery painters, and that these were copied, not only onto creamware, pearlware and porcelain but also only chalcedony ware. Similar botanical wares were produced at Flight and Barr, Spode, Coalport, Wedgewood and many other Staffordshire manufactories, although some wares were not always marked, and thus the pieces cannot always be attributed with certainty to a particular factory.
It is a fact that many plant portraits on these early botanical wares were copied from the Botanical Magazine and these sometimes bear the original plate number for the particular species illustrated. Futhermore, since Sydenham Edwards ws largely responsible for illustrating the Magazine from February 1787 onwards, he too must take the credit for having had such a profound influence on both the pottery proprietors and the public which they served. Of course, once a set of Botanical Magazine had been purchased for use in a pottery, it coult be used over and over again and thus some of the very earliest illustrations can appear on a newly potted piece very many years later. Consequently, examples of Davenport botanical porcelain which I have examined and which span the period c.1810-1830, were clearly inspired by Sydenham Edwards as well as the magazine's earlier artists, James Sowerby and probably also William Curtis himself. This however is not unique to that particular factory, but is true of all potteries which produced botanical type wares.

A preponderance of lavishly illustrated botanical and horticultural books soon appeared as interest in plants gained momentum. Many of these, unlike the illustrations in the Botanical Magazine and those by James Sowerby in English Botany, were drawn in a freer style and while very pleasing on aesthetic grounds, lacked the so-called stiffness of the traditional, scientifically accurate botanical illustrations. The purpose of thses books was to stimulate interest in flowers, rather than to aid identification. Times were changing and so were public preferences. Customers it seemed now preferred colourful breeze-blown ornate flowers, those with which they were familiar and which they cultivated in their gardens, roses, tulips, heartsease, poppies and asters, either individually or in groups, rather than the botanists' specimen plant, an exotic and often peculiar species which they would probably never encounter during their lives.

Indeed, Andrew Ledger's research indicates that, whereas at first botanical illustration on Derby ware was inspired by the Botanical Magazine and English Botany, other sources were later used including Botanist's Repository and Engravings of Heaths (Henry Andrews), Figures from the Gardener's Dictionary (Philip Miller) and A Collection of Flowers Drawn after Nature and disposed in an ornamental and picturesque manner (john Edwards). Similarly my research into botanical prize plates priduced for the Faversham Horticultural and Floral Society by the Davenport manufactory in the late 1830's to early 1840's shows that they were inspired by illustrations from Sir Joseph Paxton's Magazine of Botany and Register of Flowering Plants.
From about 1830 onwards, botanical decoration in ts strictes sense declined and for a time was replaced by plants in the 'ornamental and picturesque' style, before finally yielding entirely to flower painting of individual specimens, groups, posies or bouquets and then the stylized flower which was nothing more than a grotesque, synthesized plant, seemingly the creation of a designer rather than that of an artist. Botanical illustration, it seems, was now out of vogue to all except those for whom the illustrations had originally been intended, the botanists and taxonomists themselves.
SOME FINAL WORDSIt is perhaps tempting to consider Edwards solely as a botanical illustrator, rather than a botanist, even though a practical and sound knowledge of plant morphology is essential if one is to accurately depict any botanical subject on paper. That Edwards was more than an artist is obvious from his letter of 1812 to Mr Faulkner, the author of the History of Fulham, in which he duscusses in some detail the identity, origin and taxonomy of the moss rose Rosa muscosa (Mardy Rees). Moreover, Edwards is credited with the discovery of the sensory function of the trigger bristles found on the leaf of the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula). Above all, let us not forget that is was distinguished members of the scientific community who, on June 5th 1804, duly elected Edwards as a fellow of the Linnean Society, and honour which he rightly deserved in recognition of his service to botany. These included the entomologist Thomas Marsham (one of the early founders and treasurer of the Society), Alexander Macleay (an official at the Transport Office and secretary of the Society who later became the Colonial Secretary for New South Wales and corresponded regularly with Sir WIlliam Hooker) and Aylmer Bourke Lambert (the one time unofficial Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, a parton of botany and author of 'A description of the genus pinus' and 'A Pdescription of the genus Chinchona', the source of quinine). The other two signatories were James Sowerby (botanical artist and the 'founder of a dynasty of painters' of whom much has already been written) and Jonas Carl Dryander (who accompanied Sir Joseph Banks as his librarian on Cook's voyage and in honour of whom his successor Robert Brown, named the genus Dryandra, which appropriately is closely related to Banksia). He later became the librarian of the Royal Society. Their recommendation that Edwards be accepted as a Fellow of the Linnean Society reads thus:

'Mr Sydenham Edwards of Brompton, a Gentleman well known from his various works in Botany and other Branches of Natural History being desirous of becoming a Fellow of the Linnean Society, we the undersigned beg leave to recommend him as highly worthy of that Honour and likely to become a very useful member'.

In researching this present work I have discovered that we really know very little about Edwards. His personality, his appearance and stature, his pastimes, his likes and dislikes, the details of his social circle, his friends, acquaintances, family, aspirations and disappointments all elude us. In knowing so little, we are consoled only in that so much of his original work still remains a lasting tribute to a most remarkable man whom posterity has seemingly chosen to forget.

Thomas (1910) states that following Edwards death in Chelsea in 1819, the stonemason carving the artist's name on the tablet erected to his memory in Chelsea Old Church had added a second name which he had also managed to mis-spell, carving 'Teast' instead of 'Teak'. This according to Thomas was an error which has been perpetuated in the literature ever since and has raised many questions on the significance of otherwise of the 'T' in Sydenham T. Edwards. Indeed, according to Hubbard (1991), the artist was christened Sydenham Edwards and no more. Although many unsigned works exist, Edwards had, according to Thomas' researches on signed plates from the Botanical Magazine of 1793 and onwards, generally signed his work as 'S.T. Edwards del.', 'Syd. T. Edwards del.', 'S.T. Edwards', 'S.T. Edwards fecit' or 'S.T. Edwards del. et sculp.' Occasionally the name 'Teak' appears. This according to Thomas was probably a name assumed in adulthood although the Botanical Register of 1815, where his name is most prominent, has only 'Sydenham Edwards'. Interestingly however, the initial 'T' was omitted from his name in the obituary, although the name 'Teaste', with an extra 'e' is written in full on the certificate of burial.

In short, many anomalies surround Sydenham Edwards. From his humble and obscure beginnings in a remote Welsh village, his fortuious meeting with Mr Denman, his employment by Curtis as principal artist for the Botanical Magazine and suvsequent resignation, to the uncertainty of his second name and the paucity of information and misinformation relating to him, everything concerning Edwards is shrouded in mystery and much of what was once known has long since evaporated. It is as though all the forces of nature have conspired to erase his name forever from our memories. His original tombstone was lost in the bombing of 1941 and was replaced by a tablet above the burial site adjacent to the church's chained library. During restoration of the church in about 1953, the ladies of the parish embroidered a 'Kneeler' or hassock bearing his name but gave 1771 not 1768 as his date of birth (Hubbard 1991). Indeed, even the papilionaceous genus Edwardsia, which was named in his honour and which contained some beautiful plants worthy of his name, has since renamed Sophora. Much information has indeed been lost to us. Nevertheless, that which remains, his life's work, the innumerable sketches, watercolours and engravings are able to tell us more than any biography, however well researched of written. They speak of a sensitive and industrious young man with a passion for plants, and eye for colour and detail, great manual dexterity, an artistic flair, and enquiring mind and a capacity to distill the essential features of any flower set beforehim and to accurately recreate it in all its moods upon a blank sheet. And yet, despite all he achieved, he remains largely unknown. Finally, when one has critically appraised his art, analyzed thie historical facts, sought to dissect his thoughts and evaluated all those factors which had moulded, motivated and influenced him, we are still little closer to understanding the character who was Sydenham Edwards.