Pudding and Praise
1799 Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist and entomologist William Curtis, the creator, and publisher of the influential Curtis Botanical Magazine.
William founded the magazine in 1787. Curtis Botanical Magazine made him wealthy, and he often remarked that it had brought him "pudding and praise".
William had started out life as an apothecary, but in short order, he discovered that it could not hold his interest. Sir James Edward Smith recalled that William loved being a naturalist more than working in the city. He wrote,
“The Apothecary was soon swallowed up in the botanist, and the shop exchanged for a garden!”
William was a founder of the Linnaean Society, and he also authored a book about the botany of London called Flora Londiniensis. In 1779, William transformed his Lambeth garden into the London Botanic Garden. William wanted his garden to be a place where visitors could learn all about plants and their uses - not just for food - but in medicine and cooking as well.
William was at heart a pragmatist. When William heard from visitors that they needed a resource to help with growing the plants they were acquiring, William came up with the idea for his magazine.
On February 1, 1787, the very first Curtis Botanical magazine was published,
“for the youth of ... ladies, gentlemen, and gardeners ... who wish to become scientifically acquainted with the plants they cultivate."
The magazine owes much of its success to William's promise to provide his readers with helpful illustrations. Artists, like James Sowerby, helped ensure the magazine's success.
In addition to his legacy left by his flora and his magazine, the genus Curtisia honors William Curtis.