London: William Smith, 1840. First edition. Quarto measuring 215 x 267mm. Collates xvi, [iv], 272: complete, including all 48 hand-colored plates by Day & Haghe, Lithographers to the Queen. Bound in recent quarter calf over marbled boards, with gilt and red morocco label to spine. New marbled endpapers. Original endpapers bound in, with some chipping and closed tear to front and amateur tape repairs to verso of rear. Else internally a clean, square, pleasing copy with vividly colored illustrations of the plants being studied and delineated by the famed Victorian botanical writer. One of only two copies presently on the market.
Upon her marriage to landscape engineer John Claudius Loudon, Jane's career as a magazine writer took a shift toward botany. Her close collaboration with John on his Gardener's Magazine opened the door to self-education that would lead to her most important publications: The Ladies' Flower Garden of Ornamental Annuals, Ornamental Bulbous Plants, Ornamental Perennials, British Wild Flowers, and Ornamental Greenhouse Plants (1840-1860). Both a savvy business woman and accessible writer, Jane "tapped the ready Victorian market for books popularizing horticulture, botany, and natural history...The Ladies' Flower Garden of Ornamental Annuals, the first in a much-reprinted series of informative illustrated books...brought information about the natural system of plant classification to popular audiences" (ODNB). Having had to educate herself in the field, she identified with readers who had little or no education; and she became popular for inviting them into the world of plants as a place for learning, cultivation, and exploration. Conscious of readers' individual situation, she explains in the preface that while she intended "to publish a series of works," she also meant for "each work to be complete in itself" so that those whose interest or climates are limited to one area needn't go to excessive expense. An award from the Royal Literary Fund four years later supported and allowed her continued writing. In proto-feminist fashion, she did not deny the importance of separate spheres for men and women; and she urged activists "not to make women usurp the place of men, but to render them as rational and intelligent human beings" (Ladies' Companion). (Item #2871)