Visit to RHS Lindley Library, Vincent Square, London

Monday 25 November 2019

MPG members had an interesting tour of the RHS Lindley Library archive. We saw a small sample of the vast store of books the RHS has housed at Vincent Square. Amongst the treasures we were shown was a second edition of Gerard’s Herbal beautifully illustrated with pen and ink drawings and wood cuts, which was first published in 1597. The text is describes the common use of the plants and sometimes the folk history. Common names are used as it pre-dates Linnaeus and the binomial nomenclature which he popularised.

We were shown an interesting hand coloured seed catalogue ‘Album Benary’ a portfolio containing 28 chromolithographic plates of vegetables drawn by Ernst Benary. Ernst Benary lived in central Germany; an area already noted for seed production. During his early years he spent some time in Great Britain at the orchid nursery of Hugh Low and at Kew Gardens. He published his first catalogue of seeds and plants in December 1843. Ahead of his time the catalogues and price lists were bi-lingual or multi-lingual and he developed a strong customer base across Europe.

​We also had an insight into the early world of garden design in the book ‘A new orchard and garden’ first published 1618. This was the standard 17th century text on trees by William Lawson, a Protestant clergyman at Ormesby North Yorkshire, and his this only publication. Perhaps because of his puritanical leanings he stresses the pleasure/ profit balance of cultivating a garden, and is keen to maximise the return on labour – orchards having a greater yield than other cultivation.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon visit that marked the end of MPG’s activities for 2019.

Sue Tymon