James Edward Smith


The influence of Linnaeus spread rapidly after the publication of his epoch-makingSpecies Plantarum in 1753; and in 1788, ten years after Linnaeus’s death, came the founding in London of the Linnean Society by, among others, James Edward Smith (1759-1828). Smith, a prolific writer, is chiefly remembered for his monumental English Botanywhich James Sowerby illustrated so accurately and beautifully.

In the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives there is a far less well-known work by Smith, Plantarum Icones hactenus inediate (London,1789-90), a collection of 25 folio sized plates figuring unusual plants preserved in Linnaeus’s herbarium. These 25 pictures, the work of Sowerby, were the first instalment of a series which, through lack of support, did not survive beyond the third.

The illustrations are attractively set out with each plate opposite Smith’s descriptive text which is in Latin. Engraved on copperplate, they attain a high degree of detail and trueness to life. A drawing of particular interest shows a plant from the island of Mauritius. Smith named it Rousseau in recognition of Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s enthusiastic writings about botany. Like J.J.Dillenius, Smith much enjoyed a botanical frolic into Wales. He came as a frequent guest of Thomas Johnes of Hafod. It was to Jones’ daughter, Mariamne, that Smith dedicated his huge, superbly illustrated book, Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia." Among several works by Smith in the library is his Fifteen Views Illustrative of a Tour to Hafod (London, 1810), illustrated by John 'Wawrick' Smith.

The plate shown here illustrates Turroea virens.