Sunday, August 30, 1835
'A splendid day. All the beautiful flowers coming out in such glory that Mt & I
in pure rapture seized on them and neglecting all other duties & occupations set to work
I outlining & she colouring them.'

Extract from the Cape diary of Sir John Herschel

Sir John Herschel (1792-1871), son of Sir William Herschel, the discoverer of the planet Uranus, has long been recognized as one of Britain's great nineteenth-century scientists. His accomplishments in astronomy, mathematics and physics are well known, but this publication focuses on his private interest in botanical matters.

A visit to the Cape from 1834 to 1838 to survey the southern skies exposed Herschel to another great natural wonder - the beauty and diversity of the Cape Flora. The profound impact this encounter had on both John and his wife Margaret resulted in a magnificent portfolio of botanical drawings (outlined by John using a camera lucida for scientific accuracy, and painted in watercolours by Margaret), most of which are reproduced in this volume. Herschel's restless analytical mind also led him to consider deeper issues, among them the morphology of bulbs, the diversity of species (before Darwin's Origin of Species), and botanical scents and perfumes.

The Brenthurst Press has once again drawn on the resources of The Brenthurst Library, and other relevant material (much of it unpublished and in private collections) to produce Flora Herscheliana: Sir John and Lady Herschel at the Cape, 1834 to 1838, by Brian Warner and John Rourke. The book includes unpublished paintings by other artists such as Charles Davidson Bell and Thomas Bowler, and is a celebration of the Herschel's fascination with the abundant beauty they discovered on the doorstep of Feldhausen, their home at the Cape.

The Authors

Professor Brian Warner, formerly Head of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Cape Town, trained as an astrophysicist at University College London, and has D.Sc. degrees both from the University of London and Oxford University. Although principally an observational astronomer, his interest in the history of astronomy has resulted in the publication of several books and many articles, several of which have been histories or biographies concerning the early years of the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope.

Dr John Rourke, formerly Curator of the Compton Herbarium, National Botanical Institute, Kirstenbosch, studied botany at the University of Cape Town, where he was awarded the degrees of M.Sc. and Ph.D. He is one of only fifty Foreign Members of the Linnean Society of London. His special research interest is in the systematics and phylogeny of the family Proteaceae. Dr Rourke has published extensively on all fourteen genera of this family in southern Africa. Botanical history is another of his fields of interest in which he has co-authored several works, notably those on the famous eighteenth-century explorers, Carl Peter Thunberg and William Paterson.


316 pages with bibliography and index;
300 mm deep x 240 mm wide;
over 190 illustrations in full colour and over 50 in monochrome;
printed on 130 g/m²: Lanagrain Blanc, 25% cotton, pH neutral paper, manufactured in France for The Brenthurst Press.

This edition is limited to one thousand and fifty copies, made up as follows:

Presentation edition 20 copies in full leather (not for sale)

De luxe edition 150 copies, numbered 1 to 150, bound by Peter Carstens of Johannesburg in half leather: navy Nigerian Sokoto tanned goatskin and hand-marbled paper, top edge gilded, hand-sewn head-and-tail bands, rounded spine with 5 raised bands and tooled in gold, in a lined slipcase covered in navy leather and hand-marbled paper.
ISBN 0-909079-56-0 ISBN-13 978-0-909079-56-7
R3 000.00

Standard edition 850 copies (out of print)

The Brenthurst Press (Pty) Ltd (Registration number 1974/002969/07)
Box 87184 Houghton 2041 South Africa Telephone +27 11 544 5412 Fax +27 11 486 1651