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Nursery catalogues

Veitch catalogueNursery catalogues are a 17th century innovation. The earliest nursery catalogues were notices in published books advertising nurserymen’s stocks of plants. Eventually, some larger firms began to issue separate listings and the earliest of these held in the Lindley Library date from the 18th century.

Read the full text by Brent Elliott

Peter Barr and James Veitch

Peter Barr and James Veitch were major innovators with their nursery catalogues.
In 1862 both Barr & Sugden and James Veitch of Chelsea launched catalogues that included both
plant descriptions and wood-engravings.

The Gardeners’ Chronicle attacked the Barr & Sugden catalogue for inaccuracies and suggested plant descriptions were unnecessary.

William Robinson criticised catalogue illustrations for idealising the plants. Nevertheless, by the 1870s both plant descriptions and illustrations were the norm.

The Lindley Library catalogue collection

We hold the largest UK collection of nursery catalogues. These date primarily from the 1860s and are mainly of British firms. Wisley’s collection covers mainly 20th century firms and some seed catalogues. London’s collection covers mainly 19th- and 20th-century firms, and includes seed and sundries catalogues.

Nursery catalogues are not listed on our online catalogue, but the enquiry teams can search our database for you to check if we have catalogues for the firms you are interested in, and which library holds them.

Read the full paper by Dr Brent Elliott

Value for horticultural research

Historians of garden plants find nursery catalogues a vital source. They document planting fashions, and help to track the introduction (and disappearance) of cultivars. They also document the history of flower shows, individual firms, commercial horticulture, the commercial plant trade, and the marketing of plants.

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