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Having learnt about apothecary uses for herbs while studying medicine, William Rhind studied other applications of botany, and wrote A Hitsory of the Vegetable Kingdom... which was greatly improved by the wonderfully presented illustrations of botanical specimens by Walter Hood Fitch.

Practical Botany in Antique Prints

Spices and herbs have been appreciated - even coveted - for thousands of years. They were traded through Egypt, Persian, the Roman Empire, Turkey, India and China. Trade flourished overland, with salt and other minerals, flax and linen, cotton and silks, oils and wine, coffee and tea... and exotic spices, particularly Chinese cassia (cinnamon), turmeric and ginger. Taken by traders to the Moluccan Islands, spices thrived in the wonderful climate of Malaku which became known as the Spice Islands (the location of which was closely guarded by travellers). Nutmeg was not cultivated extensively and cloves proved sensitive to growing conditions, so both became more valuable. Spices were in demand for their fragrance, flavour in food-preparation, and for their medicinal properties.

            Leaving Elgin and his medical practice, William Rhind moved to Edinburgh for better access to research material. He began by writing about excursions around Edinburgh. As well as botany and wildlife, Rhind included important new information about local geology. For the young, Rhind wrote popular books about the earth, geology, meteorology, geography, botany and zoology. He studied all facets of nature except fauna. (This was probably a conscious decision, as William Rhind endured mobility issues all his life.)

Rhind's most spectacular work was A History of the Vegetable Kingdom...and their application in the arts, manufactures, and domestic economy. Rhind employed talented local artist, Walter Hood Fitch, to provide drawings for illustrations. Fitch skilfully and artistically presented three-dimensional groups of botanical specimens with their pertinent seeds, fruit, flowers and foliage. His stunning compositions were then engraved onto steel plates (by reversed image in a mirror, for printing in the correct direction), and then each engraving printed from the plate was hand-coloured with watercolours. These artful illustrations are undoubtedly some of the most interesting botanical engravings ever done.

They are to be found at,Nuts,Vegies-BotanyUses.aspx

Posted: 1/11/2022 12:08:55 PM by | with 0 comments

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