THORNTON, Robert John (c. 1768-1837). Elements of Botany. London: For the Author by J. Whiting, 1812.

$ 3,500.00

2 volumes. 8vo., (9 ½ x 6 ⅛ inches). Half-titles, 24 engraved sectional title pages (browned and spotted throughout). 176 fine engraved plates (a couple of plates detaching, some spotting and marginal staining). Original publisher’s drab paper boards, muslin spines with black morocco gilt spine labels (a bit stained, paper labels worn at edges).

Provenance: With the manuscript ownership inscription of J. R. Riggs dated 1854 in both volumes.

First edition. IN ORIGINAL PUBLISHER’S PAPER BOARDS. Thornton was destined for a career in the church, but while at Trinity College, Cambridge he found inspiration in the botanical lectures of Thomas Martyn and switched to studying medicine. He went on to lecture in medical botany at Guy's Hospital. “In 1811 he obtained an act of parliament (51 Geo. III, cap. 103), authorizing him to organize a lottery of his botanical works, and this was advertised as ‘The Royal Botanical Lottery, under the patronage of the prince regent, of twenty thousand tickets at two guineas each, and ten thousand prizes, of a total value exceeding 77,000l.’ The first prize was the collection of original pictures at that date on exhibition at the European Museum, King Street, St. James’s which was valued at over five thousand pounds. The second class of prizes consisted of copies of ‘The Temple of Flora,’ ‘in five folio volumes;’ the third class, of sets of the plates coloured; the fourth class, of the quarto edition; the fifth class, of the ‘British Flora’ (5 vols. 8vo, with four hundred plates); and the sixth class, of the ‘Elements of Botany’ [as here]… The lottery does not appear to have proved remunerative; and in spite of his numerous subsequent publications, when Thornton died… on 21 Jan. 1837, he left his family very poor” (DNB). Nissen 1952.