John Martyn, 1699-1768
Historia Plantarum Rariorum.
London: Richard Reily, 1728-1738.
John Martyn was a professor of botany at Cambridge (England), a translator of Joseph Pitton de Tournefort's Institutiones Rei Herbariae and Virgil's Georgics and Bucolics, and a lecturer before the Royal Society of London. He is best known for Historia Plantarum Rariorum, an illustrated flower book that "contains some of the earliest examples of colour-printing from a single metal plate" (Henrey 1975, v.2, 53).
Most of the original paintings are the work of Jacob van Huysum.
The son of a merchant, Martyn was born in London, attended a private school in his neighborhood, and, at age 16, began work in his father's business. His interest in botany stemmed from his acquaintanceships with John Wilmer, an apothecary, and Dr. Patrick Blair, a surgeon-apothecary from Dundee who practiced in London for a time. In 1721 and 1726 Martyn gave a series of botanical lectures in London and in 1727 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He became a professor of botany at Cambridge in 1732 and held this position until 1768.
Historia Plantarum Rariorum describes plants grown in the Chelsea Physic Garden and the Cambridge Botanic Garden. Elisha Kirkall engraved the plates in mezzotint. Most of the original paintings are the work of Jacob van Huysum; other artists are William Houstoun, Massey, G. Sartorys, and R. Sartorius. The illustrations include plants from the Cape of Good Hope, North America, the West Indies, and Mexico (Henrey 1975, v.2, 53). Issued in five parts of ten plates each between 1728 and 1737, the Plantarum was sold by subscription. Unfortunately, the work did not receive the financial support necessary for such an expensive undertaking and publication ceased in 1737.
Blunt, Wilfrid. The Art of Botanical Illustration. London: Collins, 1950.
Catalogue of Botanical Books. Pittsburgh: Hunt Botanical Library, 1961. vol. 2, #476.
Henrey, Blanche. British Botanical and Horticultural Literature Before 1800. London: Oxford University Press, 1975.