Martin, W. Keble | The Concise British Flora in Colour

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  • First edition, first impression of this remarkable, surprise best-seller, the result of a lifetime of meticulous botanical study that was published when the author was 88 years old. Signed by Martin on the half title and with a loosely inserted set of first day cover stamps based on his paintings. The cover card is signed by Martin and addressed from the Whimple philatelic shop of Exeter to a Miss M. Percy of Woodbury, Exeter, which was Martin’s home during the final years of his life. Further examples of the stamps are tipped-in on the half title, and the programme of service for Martin’s funeral at St. Swithun’s Church in Woodbury is loosely inserted. Copies signed by Martin are particularly uncommon.

    W. Keble Martin (1877-1969) developed a love for natural history as a boy in Devon, raising butterflies and becoming a keen birder, but it was botany that became his passion. As a student at Oxford in 1896 he began drawing plants, first mosses and then flowers, and his first publication was the report of a new colony of heath lobelia that appeared in the Journal of Botany in 1901 (obituary, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 1970). Devotion to his career as a parish priest left little time for botany, but he was probably considering a formal publication by the 1920s, when he began producing early versions of the plates that would eventually appear in The Concise British Flora.

    “The plates of wild flowers in the Flora are outstanding, not only because of their intricacy of detail and extraordinary accuracy (which alone would have established the book as a classic work), but also for the marvellous sense of design and their arrangement in form and colour. He became a rather reluctant celebrity, interviewed on television and radio, featured in magazines and national newspapers. He even illustrated a set of Royal Mail stamps and received an honorary doctorate from Exeter University, and yet he remained totally untouched by all the adulation he received. His steadfastness of spirit and standards of gentleness and humility were a rare attribute even then” (Church of England biography).

  • ...with Nomenclature Edited by Douglas H. Kent. And Foreword by H. R. H. The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. London: Ebury Press and Michael Joseph, 1965.

    Tall quarto. Original green boards, titles to spine and floral roundel to upper board gilt. With the dust jacket. 95 colour and 6 black and white plates. Corners slightly bumped, spotting to the edges of the text block and very occasionally to the contents. A very good copy in the rubbed, toned, and nicked jacket with a short closed tear to the rear panel at the head of the spine.