Botany in print: books and their readers in 18th-century Dublin.

Botany in print: books and their readers in 18th-century Dublin.[1]


The history of botany is the history of mankind itself: the development of agriculture and horticulture changed human societies from nomadic to settled communities, and the classification and use of medicinal plants helped shape modern medicine. Botany formed an important branch of science from the earliest times. Growing plants and crops to feed the population and for healing the sick were essential pursuits. Production of new crops or improving the yields of existing crops resulted from experimentation and the publication of research results. Botanical knowledge was passed on to future generations in manuscript and printed form, study of these documents allows us to view the progress of knowledge over the centuries, and to recreate the planted landscape of past societies.

Medicine was the driving force in the development of botany. Physic gardens and botanic gardens were created to train students to identify plants and their properties. Gardens attached to monasteries provided herbs for healing and practical knowledge was passed on orally or in written versions. Families of hereditary physicians flourished in medieval Ireland, patronized by the Gaelic Irish chiefs. Knowledge of healing plants was essential to their craft, and manuscript herbals were produced to transmit medical knowledge. Country lore relating to healing plants was passed on orally from one individual to another, often women.

The earliest printed books and treatises on botany were in Latin, aimed at medical practitioners. By the 16th century books began to appear in vernacular languages, and while still aimed at professionals, were accessible to the literate amateur. Illustrations and botanical drawings helped the reader to identify different plants and their parts. These often took the form of crude woodcuts, but increasingly fine copperplate engraving was needed to show the intricate differences between examples. Throughout the 18th century stipple engraving was employed for botanical illustration, although aquatint was sometimes used. Engravings could be hand-painted, but this made the cost rise substantially. It was not until the 19th century and the development of lithographic printing that allowed colour to be used extensively.

The 17th century saw an increased availability of texts such as herbals and treatises on forest trees. By the 18th century books and prints were aimed at the farmer or gardener. Works on agriculture and the management of trees were published, and societies such as the Dublin Society (later the Royal Dublin Society – RDS) gave premiums, or awards, for land improvements and for growing vegetables and fruit. Landowners also sought to improve their estates by the development of extensive gardens to provide fresh fruit and vegetables but also as cultivated spaces for the entertainment of guests. Italy and France led the way in garden design up the 18th century and many books were translated into English, or imported from Europe in their original languages.


Ireland’s naturall history, written by Gerard Boate, ‘late doctor of physic to the state in Ireland’, was published in London in 1652. Boate was born in the Netherlands, and educated at the University of Leyden. He began to write this work in 1645, four years before he set foot in Ireland. In 1649 he came to Dublin as ‘Doctor of Physick to the State’ and he died the following year. The book was dedicated to ‘His Excellency Oliver Cromwell’ and aimed at adventurers and planters; its stated agenda to benefit those who took over the confiscated lands of the Irish. This was the first attempt to bring together knowledge of the physical attributes of the country, from its situation to its climate and soil. It contains an account of Ireland’s resources such as metals, minerals, marble, turf, etc. A new edition of this book, with considerable improvements and additions by Thomas Molyneux, State Physician, and other writers, was published in Dublin in 1726.[2]


The botanic garden at Trinity College was established in 1687 for the use of medical students at the college, and as such played an important role in the development of medical practice in Ireland. The plant collections in the garden were highlighted by their early directors. Henry Nicholson, professor of botany at Trinity, published his treatise, Methodus plantarum, in horto medico, Collegii Dublinensis, giving a list of plants in the garden in 1712.[3] William Stephens, Nicholson’s successor at Trinity, who studied in the University of Leyden, published his work, Botanical elements, published for the use of the Botany School in the University of Dublin in 1727.[4] The garden was the venue for a series of botanical lectures given three times a week in the 1720s. The course of lectures was advertised in the newspapers and admission to subscribers was by ticket.[5] This series was likely aimed at medical practitioners and interested members of the general public. These public lectures prefigured those organized by Dr Walter Wade for the Dublin Society 100 years later, in the first two decades of the 19th century.



Estate gardening.

In Ireland books on botany, horticulture and agriculture were mainly imported before the 18th century. These imported texts were expensive, so their availability was limited to the wealthy. But by the early 18th century Dublin printers had a market in Ireland for expensive large format, illustrated editions. These editions were first printed in London, where the market was vigorous as landholders began to take an interest in estate management, and Dublin editions followed promptly. Many of the earliest Irish publications were printed by subscription. Subscribers pledged to purchase the book and paid a portion of the cost in advance, this gave the printer an assured audience, allowing him to estimate a viable print run, and raised a sum of money to fund the printing project. From a researcher’s perspective we can gauge the interest in a particular volume and we can follow the purchasers of botanical books in Ireland.


Richard Bradley (1688-1732) was first professor of botany at Cambridge University, Fellow of the Royal Society in London, and author of many books on horticulture, including translations of the Roman writer Agricola in 1721, and the Greek author Xenophon in 1727. Bradley’s New improvements of planting and gardening both philosophical and practical, was first published in London in 1717, followed by an Irish edition in 1720-21. The sixth edition, published in Dublin in 1724, is a large format folio volume with fold-out copperplate engravings.[6] Bradley is interested in the decorative garden, but he also employs science to examine the methods in which plants grow and reproduce, and the ways in which the soil can be improved to achieve better results. This book is aimed at the wealthy gardener who is planning a parterre and who can afford a glasshouse. The engraving of a glasshouse gives an indication of the target audience for this volume. Ninety feet (27.5 metres) in width with a cupola over the central section, adorned with urns and a weathervane, this plan is for the seriously wealthy gardener with plenty of space. Dean Jonathan Swift owned a copy Bradley’s Improvements in gardening, published in Dublin in 1720.[7] This earlier edition was published in the smaller, less expensive, octavo format.


A new publication advertised in the Dublin newspapers in late 1725 was a translation by Richard Bradley of an important French language work by Noel Chomel, Dictionaire oeconomique: or, the family dictionary.[8] The dictionary was wide ranging covering ‘methods of improving estates and of preserving health … and the best means of attaining long life’ as well as information on breeding farm animals and outlining ways of netting fish and snaring game. This translation had been published in London in 1725, and later that year proposals were published for the Dublin edition, which would be published by subscription as soon as 200 had subscribed.[9] The cost of the two volume large format folio set was £1.10s., a high price, but considerably cheaper than the London edition which sold for £2.12s. The subscription list reached 140 names, subscribing to 168 copies of the book, multiple copies were purchased by booksellers for resale. The advertising drew attention to the book’s currency as it was translated from the second edition printed in Paris in 1718, and contained ‘considerable alterations and improvements’ by Richard Bradley, a highly respected horticultural writer. The alterations included new material from the works of English writers and offered cookery and confectionary recipes.


John Laurence (d.1732) was an English clergyman and fellow of Clare Hall Cambridge, whose books on horticulture were widely available in Ireland in the first two decades of the 18th century. The clergy-man’s recreation: shewing the pleasure and profit of the art of gardening, was his first publication on gardening, published in London in 1714. It was in its sixth edition and greatly expanded when it was reprinted in Dublin in 1717, and included with two other treatises under the new title Gardening improv’d, when all three were issued together in 1719.[10] At first glance this book seems to be aimed at the fairly modest gardener, but examination of the frontispiece shows a very lavish formal garden with elaborate architectural features, fountains and statues. The content of the book, however, was devoted to the culture and training of fruit trees. Laurence’s guides were practical and had great appeal in Great Britain, Ireland and among the colonists in America.


Originally published for an English audience, John Laurence’s A new system of agriculture was published in London in 1726 with a print run of one thousand copies. The Dublin edition came out the following year, it was published by subscription and contains a two-page list of 206 people who pledged to purchase it.[11] The book is large format, folio size, and contains engraved plates. It is dedicated to Her Highness the Princess of Wales, and the frontispiece plate is an engraving of the Prince of Wales’ house and garden at Richmond.[12] Clearly aimed at a wealthy and fashionable readership, it was purchased by members of the higher clergy, the gentry and professional people in Ireland. It is very wide in scope, aiming to be a comprehensive work covering all areas of agriculture, planting, trees, flowers, fruit and vegetable growing. Laurence looks at scientific improvements that would benefit the farmer and gardener, looking at the diseases and pests to which plants are prone, and offering cures. One engraved plate is a detailed engraving of the Passion Flower, showing its flower and fruit. He describes it in the chapter on flowering shrubs, and he says of the plant that most varieties ‘are impatient of extreme cold’ so he describes the variety that is most likely to survive in the English climate.


Philip Miller (1691-1771) was one of the most renowned gardeners of the early 18th century, whose books were published in new editions throughout the century. He was a member of the Royal Society in London and chief gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden from 1722 until his retirement shortly before his death in 1771. The gardener’s dictionary, first published in London in 1731, went into several editions during the century, eight editions during his lifetime, and had a major influence on gardening practices in England, Ireland and America. Miller had a network of correspondents around the world who sent him plants, many of which he cultivated for the first time in England. This fine folio volume was published in Dublin in 1732, shortly after its publication in London.[13] It is beautifully printed on good paper and is clearly a luxury volume aimed at the wealthy gardener and estate owner. It has a two-page list of 168 subscribers which bears this out as we see landowners, higher clergy, medical practitioners and professionals on the list. The newly established Dublin Society (1731) also subscribed to a copy for its library.


The finely engraved plate forming the frontispiece to Miller’s Dictionary, is a stylized view of a lavish estate. It depicts an extensive pleasure garden divided into different garden rooms with a broad central alley designed as a promenade. There is a fountain in the centre of what appears to be a canal bisecting the garden. Fashionable ladies and gentlemen are strolling through the garden, while some are sitting on benches in the sun. The top right hand section shows a building which is probably an orangery, or a hothouse. In this area can be seen trees in containers, probably citrus trees which would need to be taken under cover for the winter. The bottom right space may be an orchard. The top left hand segment shows a formal design of beds, probably for herbs and vegetables. The garden is adorned with statues and built features, and includes two towers in the bottom left area. Outside the perimeter of the formal garden we can see the forest planting. From 1755 a supplementary volume was published in London to accompany the Dictionary; entitled Figures of plants described in the Gardener’s Dictionary it contained fine colour engravings by skilled artists.


John Ferrar, the Limerick bookseller, published by subscription A view of ancient and modern Dublin, with … a tour to Bellevue in 1796.[14] The visit to the estate of Peter La Touche at Bellevue, County Wicklow, took place in August 1795. Ferrar noted with pleasure the trees, shrubs and fruit trees collected from America, Asia and Africa, and growing to great dimensions in the large conservatories. He was so impressed that he included engraved plates showing the hothouse and green house.[15] Bellevue’s coastal situation on the east coast helped to moderate its climate and improve its growing conditions. Ferrar’s was a philosophical tour in which he situated his impressions within a literary framework. In this chapter he used quotations from Erasmus Darwin’s ‘The Botanic Garden’, the poem itself based on practical scientific observation at Darwin’s own garden in Lichfield.



Peter La Touche (1733-1828) was of a Huguenot family, who were prominent in business and banking in Dublin during the 18th century. The family was wealthy and active in politics. Peter inherited Bellevue, near Delgany, from his father, David La Touche. David had a keen interest in gardening, and had subscribed to Miller’s Gardener’s dictionary in 1732.[16] The La Touches devoted themselves to estate management at Bellevue and to improving the gardens. Michael Pennick, the gardener at Bellevue, ingeniously invented methods of improving the production of flowers and fruit. Peter La Touche spent £30,000 planting and improving the demesne. A contemporary poem published in The Hibernian Magazine, reputedly written by Pennick himself, extols the garden.[17] Among the exotic plants growing at Bellevue the poem notes: melon, pine, peach, vine, orange and lemon, and among more robust plants, auricula, rose, jonquil, narcissus and myrtle.


A practical treatise on planting and the management of woods and coppices, published in 1794, was dedicated by its author, Samuel Hayes, to the Dublin Society: its aim the improvement of husbandry and other useful arts.[18] Samuel Hayes was a landowner in County Wicklow, his new house at Avondale was designed by James Wyatt and was completed in 1779. It was a fine country house decorated in the most fashionable style with stucco work by the Francini Brothers, set in the beautiful valley of the Avondale River. Hayes had a particular interest in the planting of trees on his estate and this work exemplifies his knowledge and interest. He had no heirs and after his death in 1796 it passed to John Parnell, father of Charles Stewart Parnell. The estate was sold in 1904 to the state and, appropriately, became the headquarters of the Forestry Department, now Coillte. Hayes’ Essay went into a second edition, published in Dublin in 1822.


Flora Hibernica.

In the 18th and 19th centuries attempts were made to classify Irish plants and to produce a Flora Hibernica: a list of native plants for each region in the country. Individual projects were begun and contributions were published for different counties. The role of the Dublin Society, later the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), founded in 1731, was central to this endeavour. Dr John Rutty published An essay towards a natural history of the county of Dublin in 1772 which was ‘accommodated to the noble designs of the Dublin Society’. Dr Walter Wade, lecturer in botany to the Dublin Society and superintendent of the Society’s Botanic Garden, advertised proposals for the publication of a flora of Dublin in the 1780s, but this major project was not completed. A series of statistical surveys relating to different Irish counties was commissioned by the Dublin Society in the early years of the 19th century, in which agricultural advances formed an important element of each survey.



The first attempt at a flora of Ireland was published a few years before the establishment of the Dublin Society. Synopsis Stirpium Hibernicarum: or a short treatise of native plants by Caleb Threlkeld (1676-1728) was published in Dublin in 1726 and reissued the following year with a new title page.[19] He considered it the first Irish flora, calling it ‘the first essay of this kind in the Kingdom of Ireland’. It includes the names of Irish native plants in English, Latin and Irish, giving their medicinal uses and any other interesting information. There is an introduction by Dr Thomas Molyneux, Physician to the State in Ireland, and an appendix that includes plants identified by Molyneux. This volume was published by subscription, and the list gives evidence of major interest from Galway readers, of the 99 names on the list 41 are from Galway. A facsimile edition was published in 1988 with a good introduction by E. Charles Nelson, which includes biographical information on Threlkeld.[20]


A Cork publication appeared in 1735 which attempted to gather information from around Ireland, Dr John K’Eogh published Botanologia universalis Hibernica, or a general Irish herbal in which he identified a number of native plants from different localities in Ireland.[21] Dedicated to the Earl of Antrim, it attracted 369 subscribers. It was supported by the nobility and gentry, including the Earl of Ross, the Earl of Orrery and John Fitzgerald, the Knight of Glin.


Dr John Rutty (1698-1775), a physician who settled in Dublin in 1724, concentrated his research on a study of materia medica and a systematic study of the weather in Dublin. His Natural history of Dublin was the first full county natural history, in which he emphasized the medicinal and culinary uses of the flora and fauna. It was published in Dublin in two volumes in 1772, selling for 15s.[22] In this work Rutty takes a holistic view, examining the structure of the earth, its soils, minerals, fossils, mineral waters, plant and animal life, and the uses to which its resources can be applied. It also includes a study of the local climate, taken from 50 years’ observations. The Natural history was published by subscription, and from the subscription list of 301 readers who pledged to purchase the book, it is possible to see the support he got for the work from a large cross section of society. The list includes large property owners like Lady Louisa Conolly of Castletown House, County Kildare, several Church of Ireland bishops, a very high proportion of medical men, doctors, surgeons and apothecaries,[23] as well as the literate readership in business and the professions. A map of the county indicates the places mentioned in the work.


Dr Walter Wade (c.1740-1825) was a physician and botanist in Dublin, he was a licentiate of the College of Physicians from 1788, and professor of botany at the Royal College of Surgeons. He was professor and lecturer on botany to the Dublin Society and superintendent of the society’s Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin. Wade’s outstanding contributions to Irish botany are twofold: the first was his successful campaign to set up a botanic garden under the patronage of the Dublin Society, his design, planting and steering of the garden in its early years, and the establishment of the library of botanical and agricultural books; the second was his popularizing of botany by a series of free public lectures given from 1802 to 1823, accompanied by practical sessions in the garden. In 1788 Wade had advertised a subscription to his forthcoming book Flora Dubliniensis, which would list the wild plants of County Dublin according to the Linnaean system, giving their Latin and English names, and their local names in Irish.[24] Due to financial difficulties it was not published, but in 1794 he produced a volume in Latin listing the native plants of County Dublin, Catalogus systematicus plantarum indigenarum, using the Linnaean system.[25] This volume was dedicated to the Honourable John Foster, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, and himself a keen gardener with a fine estate in Collon, County Louth. In 1800 Wade produced A short description of the Dublin Society’s Botanic Garden at Glasnevin, with his Catalogue of plants in the Dublin Society’s Botanic Garden at Glasnevin. He made an English translation of the French treatise on American oak trees by François Michaux Histoire des chênes de l’Amérique septrionale in 1801. In 1804 his Plantae rariores in Hibernia inventae, or habitats of some plants, rather scarce and valuable, found in Ireland, gave a detailed description of the properties and uses of the plants. He dedicated it to the ‘Dublin Society, the encouragers of agriculture, the arts, and sciences’.[26] Wade’s most substantial work, Salices, or an essay towards a general history of sallows, willows, and osiers, their uses, and best methods of propagating and cultivating them, published in Dublin in 1811, has a lovely, hand tinted engraving of the Caspian osier as its frontispiece.[27]



James Townsend MacKay (1775-1862) was a member of the Royal Irish Academy and an associate of the Linnaean Society in London. Born in Scotland, he came to Ireland as a young man in 1803 to work with Dr Robert Scott, professor of botany at Trinity College Dublin. He became the first curator of the Trinity College botanic garden in Ballsbridge in 1806. He had a network of friends and fellow botanists in Scotland, then a vigorous centre for botany and gardening. As a member of the prestigious Linnaean Society he had high-level contacts with Dr James Edward Smith, president of the society, and other distinguished members, for the exchange of plants and information. In 1804 and 1805 he had visited the west of Ireland and published a ‘Catalogue of the rarer plants of Ireland’ in the Transactions of the Royal Dublin Society in 1806. He enlarged on this article and published a Catalogue of the plants found in Ireland in 1825, an attempt to list and classify the flora of Ireland, noting especially the more rare plants.[28] One of the rarer examples noted in his Catalogue is the Fringed Sandwort or Arenaria Ciliata, he noted its presence on a mountain near Benbulben in Sligo in 1807.[29] Its distribution is recorded from Greenland and Norway to the high mountains of Italy and Spain. This hardy plant, known to have survived the Ice Age in Ireland, is considered to be about 15,000 years old.[30] His Flora Hibernica was published in 1836.[31]


Horticultural and gardening manuals.

By the second half of the 18th century costs had come down on publications relating to horticulture. The large format sumptuous volumes were replaced by more affordable smaller format books.[32] Small sized duodecimo volumes could cost from 1s.1d. stitched in blue paper to 3s.6d. bound. In 1779 Philip Miller’s Gardener’s kalendar, a duodecimo volume outlining the work to be carried out each month, was selling for 2s.8½d.[33] In 1794 William Sleater was advertising illustrated horticultural books for 3s.3d. and 3s.6d., still a substantial sum, but well within the range of middle income purchasers.[34] Samuel Fullmer’s The young gardener’s best companion was first published in London in 1781. A Dublin edition, updated ‘corrected and improved with additions, by Alex. Hamilton, of His Majesty’s gardens, Hampton-Court’ was published in 1795 and sold for 3s.3d.[35] This volume concentrated on the kitchen and fruit garden, and offered methods of raising early crops in hot beds. Emphasis was placed on practical issues with a strong scientific foundation based on up-to-date research on botanical naming.


In the 18th and 19th centuries practical manuals were published in simplified form and sold as chapbooks: small, affordable texts aimed at the smallholder to help him grow crops to feed a family. One example, The miscellany; or, evening’s occupation for the youthful peasantry of Ireland, indicates the aim of the text: to provide information for young farm labourers and smallholders. It includes a selection of essays on literary and practical matters. A series of woodcut images illustrates the agricultural cycle. Published in Dublin in 1819, it cost sixpence and so was within the means of the less well off. The woodcut illustrations from The miscellany show the activities of ploughing, mowing and reaping.[36]



Booksellers’ advertising allows us to see what books were on the market for Irish readers during the 18th century. Subscription lists give us the names of individuals who purchased different volumes, sale catalogues of personal or family libraries give an indication of books owned, and letters or diaries allow us to see how readers and gardeners made use of these books. The first three strands of evidence are most available to the researcher, the presence of letters or diaries is a matter of survival and good fortune.


An analysis of four subscription lists to books published in Dublin from 1727 to 1732 gives us a snapshot of interested purchasers. These books, Laurence’s A new system of agriculture (1727), Bradley’s translation of Chomel’s Dictionaire oeconomique (1727) and Miller’s Gardener’s dictionary (1732) were expensive volumes, which automatically restricted ownership. The fourth volume, Threlkeld’s Synopsis, was a smaller format volume costing less. The social make-up of the subscribers was much as expected: landowners, Church of Ireland clergy, medical professionals, and army officers. However, the combined list of over 600 names, occasionally with addresses, allows us to focus in on the local spread of readers.



A combination of the sources of evidence allows us to get a micro picture of readers of gardening books from 300 years on. Among the Church of Ireland clergy to subscribe to Laurence’s New system of agriculture, was Rev., later Bishop, Edward Synge (1691-1762), while his wife Jane subscribed to Miller’s Gardener’s dictionary and Bradley’s Dictionaire oeconomique. We are fortunate in the survival of the bishop’s letters to his daughter Alicia from 1746 to 1752.[37] Gardening was an important activity for him, especially the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. We find from his letters that he consulted Philip Miller’s Gardener’s dictionary and a copy of Chomel, probably the Dictionaire oeconomique, published in Dublin in 1727 that his wife Jane subscribed to. In June 1750 he writes from Strokestown to Alicia, who is in their Dublin house at Kevin’s Port, and asks her to check Miller and Chomel for information on grass seeds, especially the cinque-foil and ‘transcribe for me what he says of that particular species’.[38]



Rev. Thomas Norman (1716-1797) of Lagore, County Meath, a Church of Ireland clergyman and graduate of Trinity College, had a keen interest in botany and gardening. The sale of his library after his death in 1797 gives evidence of wide reading on this topic. He is listed as a subscriber to Charles Varley’s Treatise on agriculture (Dublin, 1765), he also owned Boate and Molyneux’s Natural history of Ireland (Dublin, 1726), Threlkeld’s Synopsis (Dublin, 1726), two copies of Laurence’s New system of agriculture (Dublin, 1727), two copies of Bradley’s Improvements of planting and gardening (Dublin, 1720 and Dublin, 1724), Chomel’s Dictionnaire (Dublin, 1727) and a London edition of Miller’s Dictionary (1724). He also possessed the highly acclaimed Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Institutions rei herbariae, published in Paris in 1700 in three volumes with plates, and a copy of Leonhart Fuchs’ Historia plantarum, published in Lyon in 1549.[39]



John Putland[40] subscribed to Laurence’s New system of agriculture, and Miller’s Dictionary in 1727 and 1732 respectively, and as ‘Treasurer of the Dublin Society’ he subscribed to Rutty’s Essay on natural history in 1772, the year before his death. Putland was an avid book collector, he was part of the Jonathan Swift, Patrick Delany, Thomas Sheridan circle and he was active in the Dublin Society from 1740.[41] Miller remained a favourite author and when the family library was sold in 1847 the Dublin edition of the Dictionary still formed part of the collection as well as the sixth and seventh editions published in London in 1752 and 1759.[42] A copy of Miller’s Figures of the plants contained in the Gardener’s dictionary, with 300 hand coloured plates (London, 1760) gives further evidence of Miller’s importance to John. A copy of Gerarde’s Herbal with plates, published in London in 1597 also had a place in the library.



A study of early botanical, horticultural and gardening books allows us to view the progress of knowledge over the centuries, and to monitor the advances in science that allowed more detailed classification and naming of plants, and the rise of medical knowledge based on plant collections. It is possible to follow the evolution of taste in gardening and the planted landscape, and to observe changing fashions.


To be able to quantify some of the Irish purchasers and readers of 18th-century botanical books gives a more localized view of how the Irish garden changed and modified over time. We can see where gardeners’ ideas came from and how they were implemented on the ground. Some of the gardens of 18th-century great houses were open to visitors, and we rely on contemporary accounts to describe their arrangement. By the end of the 18th century and the early 19th century simplified gardening and agricultural manuals were available in cheaper editions for those with small gardens and vegetable patches. Here too we can recreate the more modest holding.


There is also an aesthetic dimension, as many of these volumes contain beautiful engraved plates, and in the later 18th century and throughout the 19th century we find exquisite colour engravings, drawn by famous artists. This quality has made these books very desirable collectors’ items. Survival rates are good for these expensive good quality books, and superb examples can be viewed at the National Botanic Gardens library, Dublin City Library & Archive, Trinity College Early Printed Books Department, the National Library, the Royal Irish Academy library and the Royal Dublin Society library.


All images courtesy of Dublin City Library & Archive ( )

[1] This article has been delivered as a lecture to the Old Dublin Society and published in The Dublin Historical Record, Vol. 68, no. 2, Autumn/Winter 2015, pp 193-205.

[2] A natural history of Ireland in three parts (Dublin, George Grierson, 1726).

[3] Henry Nicholson, Methodus plantarum, in horto medico, Collegii Dublinensis (Dublin, A. Rhames, 1712).

[4] William Stephens, Botanical elements, published for the use of the Botany School in the University of Dublin (Dublin, S. Powell for G. Risk, G. Ewing, and W. Smith, 1727).

[5] Dublin Weekly Journal 8 May 1725; 23 April 1726.

[6] Richard Bradley, New improvements of planting and gardening both philosophical and practical (Dublin, George Grierson, for George Ewing, 1724).

[7] A catalogue of books, the library of the late Rev. Dr. Swift, Dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin. To be sold by auction (Dublin, George Faulkner, 1745).

[8] Noel Chomel, Dictionaire oeconomique: or, the family dictionary (Dublin, J. Watts, 1727).

[9] Dublin Weekly Journal 16 October 1725.

[10] John Laurence, Gardening improv’d: containing I. The clergyman’s recreation … (6th ed,. 1717) II. The gentleman’s recreation …(3rd ed,. 1718) III. The fruit-garden calendar (1718) (Dublin, re-printed for G. Grierson, 1719).

[11] John Laurence, A new system of agriculture (Dublin, J. Hyde and E. Dobson, for R. Gunne and R. Owen, 1727).

[12] The Prince of Wales would become King George II in 1727.

[13] Philip Miller, The gardener’s dictionary (Dublin, S. Powell, for Richard Gunne and five others, 1732)

[14] John Ferrar, A view of ancient and modern Dublin, with … a tour to Bellevue (Dublin, John Ferrar, 1796).

[15] A recent beautifully illustrated book includes a detailed description of Bellevue, Patricia Butler and Mary Davies, Wicklow through the artist’s eye: an exploration of County Wicklow’s historic gardens, c.1660-c.1960 (Dublin, Wordwell, 2014). I am very grateful to Dr James White for this reference.

[16] Catalogue of the La Touche Library, removed from Bellevue, Co. Wicklow, Dublin, James H. North and Co., 27 June 1906. The collection contained Hayes’ Treatise on planting (Dublin, 1794), Rutty’s Natural history of County Dublin (Dublin, 1772), Thomas Hale, A compleat body of husbandry, 2 vols (Dublin, 1757), and 6 volumes of Curtis’s Botanical magazine (London, 1793-97).

[17] Hibernian Magazine, June 1794, pp 553-4.

[18] Samuel Hayes, A practical treatise on planting and the management of woods and coppices (Dublin, William Sleater, 1794).

[19] Caleb Threlkeld, Synopsis Stirpium Hibernicarum: or a short treatise of native plants (Dublin, S. Powell, 1726, 2nd issue 1727).

[20] Caleb Threlkeld, The first Irish flora: Synopsis stirpium Hibernicarum, with an introduction by E. Charles Nelson (Kilkenny, Boethius Press, 1988).

[21] John K’Eogh, Botanologia universalis Hibernica, or a general Irish herbal (Corke, George Harrison, 1735).

[22] John Rutty, An essay towards a natural history of the county of Dublin (Dublin, William Sleater, 1772). For the cost see The Dublin catalogue of books (Dublin, John Parker, 1779).

[23] Medical subscribers: 86 of the 301 on the list, 28.6%

[24] Freeman’s Journal 17 January 1788. The subscription was issued by the bookseller William Sleater, who published Wade’s Catalogus systematicus in 1794.

[25] Walter Wade, Catalogus systematicus plantarum indigenarum (Dublin, William Sleater, 1794).

[26] Walter Wade, Plantae rariores in Hibernia inventae, or habitats of some plants, rather scarce and valuable, found in Ireland (Dublin, Graisberry and Campbell, 1804).

[27] Walter Wade, Salices, or an essay towards a general history of sallows, willows, and osiers, their uses, and best methods of propagating and cultivating them (Dublin, Graisberry and Campbell, 1811).

[28] James Townsend MacKay, Catalogue of the plants found in Ireland (Dublin, R. Graisberry, 1825).

[29] A perennial herb of the Caryophyllaceae family.

[30] It has recently been the subject of research by a team at the National University of Ireland Maynooth.

[31] James Townsend MacKay, Flora Hibernica: comprising the flowering plants, caraceae, musci, hepaticae, lichenes and algae of Ireland (Dublin, William Curry Jun and Company, 1836),

[32] Print runs for the large folio volumes in the early 18th century were in the region of 200. While exact figures are not available, late 18th- and early 19th-century small format handbooks could have print runs of over 1,000. Trinity College Dublin, Mss 10314-10315, Graisberry ledgers (1777-1785; 1797-1806).

[33] The Dublin catalogue of books (Dublin, John Parker, 1779).

[34] Advertised at the back of Samuel Hayes, A practical treatise on planting (Dublin, William Sleater, 1794).

[35] Samuel Fullmer, The young gardener’s best companion, for the thorough practical management of the kitchen and fruit garden (Dublin, W. Sleater, [1795]).

[36] The miscellany; or, evening’s occupation for the youthful peasantry of Ireland (Dublin, T. Courtney, 1819).

[37] Mary-Louise Legg (ed.), The Synge letters: Bishop Edward Synge to his daughter Alicia, Roscommon to Dublin 1746-1752 (Dublin, Lilliput Press, 1996).

[38] Synge letters, p.206-7.

[39] Catalogue of books, being the library of the late Rev. Thomas Norman, of Lagore, deceased. Which will be sold by Auction, by James Vallance, on Thursday, November, 30, 1797, at his sale room, No.6, Eustace-Street, Dublin, 1797.

[40] For a full treatment of the Putland family in Ireland see Liam Clare, ‘The Putland family of Dublin and Bray’, Dublin Historical Record LIV, No.2, Autumn 2001, pp 183-209.

[41] Ibid., pp 189-192.

[42] Bibliotheca Putlandia. Catalogue of the extensive and valuable library of George Putland, Esquire, deceased, of Lower Mount-Street, and Bray-Head, County of Wicklow … the entire collection having been formed from 1749 up to about 1816 (Dublin, Richard D. Webb, 1847).



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s