London: William Smith, 1846. First edition. Rebound with quarter cloth over floral boards, retaining labels from the original cloth spine. All edges brightly gilt. Paper repair to closed tear on title page not affecting text; small paper repair to final leaf with all text legible. Collating xvi, 311, [1, blank]: complete, including all 60 handcolored floral lithographs. A scarce title difficult to locate with all plates intact, the present a lovely example unfoxed and retaining its bright colors.
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...and she 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. "My object is to enable any amateur who may find a pretty wildflower to ascertain its name and and some particulars respecting it; and, in addition to these details, I have ventured to add a few remarks on the botanical construction of most of the plants, in the hopes of inducing such of my readers as may be unacquainted with botany to study a charming science which has hitherto been too much neglected." By the time of this volume, indeed, Loudon's goals have become more activist; and she overtly situates herself as pressing for women's formalized science education. "I must confess nothing would give me more pleasure than to see botany commonly taught in girls' schools, as French and music are at present; and I think it more than probable that in another generation it will be." Dosed generously with detailed and brilliantly colored plates, British Wild Flowers offers readers an opportunity to narrow the focus of their studies and learn more about the plants native to their surroundings. (Item #3527)