Dr. Robert Thornton (1768 - 1837)

The Temple Of Flora (1799 - 1807)

"The White Lily"

"The Maggot-bearing Stapelia"

"The Dragon Arum"


Dr. Thornton was the lecturer on medical botany at Guy’s Hospital in London when in 1797 he embarked upon publishing his ground-breaking work, “The Temple of Flora or Picturesque Botanical Plates of the New Illustration of the Sexual System of Linneaus.” Dr. Thornton spared no expense, committing his fortune and family inheritance in producing the most lavishly illustrated large folio flower book to date.  He employed not only the most accomplished botanical artists, portraitists, engravers and landscape artists (to show the each plant in its “natural, allegorical or fanciful” surroundings) but he also commissioned poets to pen original odes to each flowering plant illustrated.

Unfortunately his gamble did not pay off; the project was a financial disaster and virtually bankrupted Dr. Thornton.  Undertaken at a time of war, subscribers were hard to come by and publication was abruptly halted at thirty plates; less than half of the original intention of seventy to ninety finished engravings.  In 1812, Dr. Thornton was forced to raffle off the original drawings, paintings, unsold folios, remaining plates and a small quarto “lottery edition” of “The Temple of Flora” to satisfy the enormous debts of the publication.  Fortunately, subsequent generations have come to recognize the unsurpassed beauty of Thornton’s endeavor.  “The Temple of Flora” continues to this day to be widely regarded as one of the most magnificent works of botanical illustration of all time.


"The Sacred Egyptian Bean" "The Night Blowing Cereus"

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