Curtis Gates Lloyd: The Kew Connection and the Acquisition of Flora Graeca

By Pierre Soutteau
Emeritus Professor of French
Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

Reprinted from Lloydiana, Volume 14, Numbers 1-2, Winter/Spring 2010, pages 10-12

followed by: A Brief Publishing History of Flora Graeca

By Betsy Kruthoffer
Lloyd Library Cataloger

Reprinted from Lloydiana, Volume 14, Numbers 1-2, Winter/Spring 2010, pages 12-13

Curtis Gates LloydIn the course of an ongoing inquiry into the European years of Curtis Gates Lloyd, I came upon a series of letters exchanged between Curtis Gates Lloyd and S.A. Skan, a British friend and librarian at the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew. This correspondence is all the more interesting as it relates to Curtis Gates Lloyd's Kew connection and in particular to the acquisition of one of the gems in the Lloyd Library Collection, John Sibthorp's sumptuous Flora Graeca.

I am most grateful to the Lloyd Library staff, and especially to Anna K. Heran for helping me navigate the Archives of the Lloyd Library and for her useful pointers/leads.

The following abbreviations are used throughout this article:

Lloyd Library
Curtis Gates Lloyd
Flora Graeca

Ever since its publication, the Flora Graeca has generated a considerable amount of interest and curiosity among botanists, collectors, and librarians. It is no wonder that CGL should have been seeking to acquire a copy for the LL. The first comprehensive catalog of the LL holdings, issued in 1893 and written by CGL, lists two other works by John Sibthorp, Flora Oxoniensis (1794) and Flora Graeca Prodromus (1806-1813).

Early on, the FG appeared on the desiderata, or purchasing wishlists, that CGL circulated among book dealers in the United States and in Europe.

In 1898, on the return leg of one of his "winter trips" to distant lands, that time Italy and Egypt, CGL made two brief stopovers, in Paris and in London, during which he met with some of the mycologists and book dealers with whom he had been corresponding.

From the Spring of 1903 to the very eve of World War I, he made several extended trips to Europe in pursuit of his two main and concurrent interests/passions: mycological research and book collection with a view to establishing a botanical museum and one of the best botanical and pharmaceutical libraries in the world. From 1903 to 1912, CGL maintained an office in Paris from which he took many side trips to the main botanical centers of Europe: London, Leyden Uppsala (Sweden), etc. For both of his pursuits, CGL was "on location" and established solid and lasting relationships with both scientists and antiquarian librarians.

CGL was a savvy and tenacious collector, and during the Paris years a constant flow of books reached Cincinnati, shipped mostly from Paris, but also from London, Berlin, Leyden, and Leipzig. Yet, the FG somehow eluded him, though several copies of the printed edition came on the market. In one of his wish lists, CGL duly recorded in penciled notes the dates, in some cases the provenance, and always the price each one fetched: Sotheby, 1895, 121 pounds, and 168 pounds; 1906, 175 pounds; 1912, 200 pounds; 260 pounds, Dulau, (book dealer). CGL, or one of the librarians at Cincinnati, also noted, "Only 125 copies printed." [Editor's Note: This is indeed what was written, however, we surmise that it was either written in error or a misunderstanding and that the number should have been written as 25.]

In early 1912, personal and practical considerations, as well as political uncertainties in Europe, prompted CGL to move his European office to London or, more precisely, to the Botanical Garden at Kew. His correspondents were advised of his change of address: c/o Mr. S.A. Skan, Twickenham, England.

For a globe-trotter like CGL, it was a short hop from Paris to London, and he was a frequent visitor at Kew where he made many friends. One of them was Sidney Alfred Skan, a gardener at the Kew Gardens since 1892. He became an assistant at the Herbarium in 1894, and a librarian in 1899, a position he held until his retirement in 1933.

Kew Gardens Library and Herbarium buildingMoving his office to Kew and securing the help and expertise of Skan was a masterful move on the part of CGL. Judging by his letters, Skan was a most affable person, quite knowledgeable in botany and a highly competent librarian.

In his position as librarian, Skan was well acquainted with the book market, dealt with British antiquarian book dealers and attended auction sales. Indeed he proved to be an invaluable collaborator who took CGL's interests to heart, especially in the difficult circumstances of the war period.

CGL was still in Europe in 1914 on the eve of the war in England, Germany and France. Upon his return to the United States he must have been quite concerned about his acquisition goals for LL. Needless to say, book buying on the European continent came to a standstill, but thanks in large part to Skan, shipments of books from London kept arriving in Cincinnati throughout the war period. Skan was active on behalf of CGL even before the war; a statement to LL indicates that in late 1913 or 1914 he had shipped some 151 volumes. Remarkably, none of the parcels, whether books or fungi, were lost during the war period.

The war over, CGL would have liked to get back to Europe, especially to Kew, but he was less inclined to travel for a number of reasons: he was concerned about the difficult postwar circumstances in Europe and about his own health, especially his eyesight. He was also quite busy with the Museum fungi collection, as well as with the Library, which had opened to the public in 1913. Fortunately, he could rely on Skan and on his Parisian book dealer friends, all of whom had survived the war, to keep him abreast of the evolving book market.

Plate 143 from Flora GraecaCGL kept himself as well informed as he could about new and rare books available. It was at this juncture that he was advised that a recent dealer's catalog offered the FG for 240 pounds. He immediately contacted Skan in a letter dated August 16, 1920, recommending that he investigate the matter and find out the name of the dealer and contact him regarding the price. It seems that CGL was quite sparing of his money at the time. The book dealer in question was not Dulau who had previously sold a printed copy, but Bernard Quaritch of London, a "dealer in ancient manuscripts, rare articles and scientific books." In his reply to Skan's inquiry, Quaritch stated "that 240 pounds was positively the lowest price for the FG." CGL realized that he had to move quickly and in a letter to Skan dated September 17, 1920, he sent him a check for 250 pounds, "two hundred and forty of which for the purchase of the book and ten pounds for your commission." He added that "they were rather fortunate in securing the book at this price for he had always been willing to pay a thousand dollars for a copy." The rate of exchange at this date was also quite favorable. In a letter dated October 2, 1920, Skan informed CGL that on receipt of his letter he had immediately communicated with Quaritch and secured the FG. He also went to London "to have a look at it before paying for it."

At long last, after so many years of searching, LL was acquiring one of the 25 copies of FG's first edition. Quaritch pointed out that he had never met with the work before in fascicles as issued, quite uncut. He further recommended that "a binding would spoil its present unique character and recommended that it should not be bound, but preserved in cases, say 2 fascicles in each case." The arrival of FG at the LL, probably in 1921, must have been an exciting delivery. Despite Quaritch's advice, it was decided at some point to have it bound.

When Skan entered into a cooperative agreement with CGL, the expectation on both sides was that it would be brief, as CGL intended to be back to Kew as soon as possible, but the war dragged on for four years and when it was over CGL was undecided about the date of his return. Skan was overwhelmed with work and shortly after the purchase of FG he requested to be relieved of some of his responsibilities, namely the packing and shipping of books, but agreed to keep helping him in getting books for the LL. CGL complied with his request and the relationship between the two men continued until CGL's death in 1926.

In August 1922, CGL decided that at this point it was imperative for him to return to Kew, where he resided from August 1922 to mid 1923. While there he enlisted the help of another agent and bookseller C.J. Hardman. Hardman’s daughter, Cecilia, was looking for a job, and CGL put her in charge of his "office" at Kew. She did clerical work and learned how to process the fungi specimens that were arriving at Kew for CGL from all over the world.

By mid-1926, when his health seriously deteriorated, CGL closed the London office. He died shortly thereafter on November 11. Many book dealers, agents and friends from European countries contributed to the extraordinary growth of the Lloyd Library collection. Among those, S.A. Skan stands as one of the most prominent. In 1893 there were 3,066 volumes in the collection and 47,126 in 1918. By the time of Curtis' death, LL's collection had grown to 52,000 volumes, and among those were many rarities, such as FG.


The story of the Flora Graeca is told in two books:

Lack, H.W. with Malberley, D.J. The Flora Graeca Story, Sibthorp, Bauer and Hopkins in the Levant. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Harris, Stephen. The Magnificent Flora Graeca. Bodleian, University of Oxford, 2007.

A Brief Publishing History of Flora Graeca

[Editor's Note: During Pierre Sotteau's research, he inquired how many other libraries, in addition to the Lloyd, owned one of the original 25 copies of Flora Graeca. The question, like so many others about early book history, is complicated and probably not answerable with any certainty. Cataloger Betsy Kruthoffer did some investigating and below offers a short story of the complexities involved in publishing this botanical masterpiece. Although the Lloyd had always claimed to own one of the original 25 copies, further evidence came to light in 2005 as a result of e-mail communications with Stanley H. Johnston, Jr., Ph.D., then Curator of Rare Books at the Holden Arboretum, and experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (where another of the original 25 copies resides in their library). Several pages of Lloyd's copy were then examined for watermarks, leading us to believe that the Lloyd does indeed own one of the original 25.]

John SibthorpJohn Sibthorp (1758-1796) [portrait at left reproduced from Walter Lack's The Flora Graeca Story, 1999, plate 1 facing page 160] was an aristocrat and native of Oxford, England. He received the degree of Bachelor of Medicine at Oxford University in December 1783 and four months later, at the age of 25, succeeded his father as Sherardian Professor of Botany at Oxford. Earlier in his academic career, in June of 1781, he was elected to a Radcliffe Fellowship which provided a stipend for required travel. Thus began the long and fascinating history of the publication of Sibthorp's masterpiece, Flora Graeca.

During a tour of the continent as Radcliffe Fellow from 1781 to 1783, Sibthorp collected plants from various places around Europe and communicated with Sir Joseph Banks; however, there is no evidence that botanical exploration was the primary reason for this trip. Perhaps it was during this time of casual collecting that Sibthorp formed the idea of producing a flora of a specific area of Europe, which eventually led him to the Mediterranean Sea.

Sibthorp embarked on his first botanical journey in 1784, spending two years in Germany and Austria to prepare for his time in Greece and Turkey. In 1786 in Vienna, he was introduced to Austrian artist Ferdinand Bauer (1760-1826) after a recommendation from a friend. Along with their traveling companion John Hawkins (1761-1841), the third main figure in the Flora Graeca saga, Sibthorp and Bauer set off from Vienna to Naples in March 1786. They spent the next year and a half collecting and drawing in Istanbul, Cyprus, Athens, and other locations around the Mediterranean. The original intention was to produce an herbal or medical text, but instead the work became a massive scientific survey of the region's plants featuring Sibthorp's descriptions and Bauer's illustrations.

John Sibthorp died in 1796 after falling ill during his second journey to the region, well before the publication of Flora Graeca began. Fortunately, he had the foresight to outline his wishes for the book in his will and he made John Hawkins one of his executors. Originally under the direction of James Edward Smith (1759-1828), who wrote the descriptive text based on Sibthorp's notes, the first of ten volumes containing 100 illustrated color plates was printed and distributed to subscribers starting in 1806. Smith oversaw the publication of the first six volumes. The seventh volume was published in 1831 under the direction of Robert Brown, whose name does not appear on the work. The final three volumes were overseen by John Lindley (1799-1865), with the final volume being published in 1840. The ten volumes contain a total of 966 illustrated color engravings based on Bauer's drawings.

According to Blanche Henrey in British Botanical and Horticultural Literature before 1800, there were 30 subscribers to the work during Smith's period of preparation. By 1840 there had only been 25 copies distributed. We know this because the Bodleian Library in Oxford holds a document which lists the 25 copies and their various subscribers. One of the subscribers was Henry G. Bohn, a bookseller and publisher in London who took over the "remaining stock" of the Flora Graeca from Oxford University. Apparently, 40 additional copies of the text were printed but not sold during publication. Bohn then had the illustrations reprinted (on paper stock that was watermarked "1845") so that he could sell these additional copies. This watermark is the only way to distinguish between the first and second printings.

Sibthorp illustrationsWe believe that the Lloyd Library's copy of Flora Graeca, purchased by Curtis Gates Lloyd in 1920, is one of the original 25 copies published. So far we have not found that any of the illustrated pages have the 1845 watermark. The Lloyd's Flora Graeca, massive in scope and size yet beautiful in its simplicity, is obviously exceedingly rare and valuable. We are proud to be its caretaker.


Lack, H.W. with Malberley, D.J. The Flora Graeca Story, Sibthorp, Bauer and Hopkins in the Levant.  Oxford University Press, 1999.

Johnston, Stanley H., Jr., comp., The Cleveland Herbal, Botanical, and Horticultural Collections. Kent State University Press, 1992.

Henrey, Blanche, British Botanical and Horticultural Literature before 1800. Oxford University Press, 1975.