The World in a Book: Robert John Thornton's Temple of Flora (1797-1812)
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CitationMollendorf, Miranda Andrea. 2013. The World in a Book: Robert John Thornton's Temple of Flora (1797-1812). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractI argue in my dissertation that Robert John Thornton's (1768?-1837) Temple of Flora (folio 1799-1807, quarto 1812), also entitled "The Universal Empire of Love," represents personified botanical flowers of the British Empire in a colonial microcosm where anthropomorphic plants are allegorized as Europe's others. This book was a collectible item with plates issued in a series of subscriptions, which were always bound in different combinations so that no two copies were ever the same--a book that depicts a metamorphic view of nature through a series of alterations made to the individual plates, which reflects the diversity of exotic and familiar territories in the world and the mysteries within it. Thornton chose plants, flower symbolism, and landscape backgrounds "with scenery appropriated to their subject," to encapsulate the universe as a series of botanical scenes of exotic and familiar territories of Britain's past and present, and this botanical world includes four continents of the world symbolically represented as women through the relationship between image and text, the diversity of people and naturalia within these territories, and the passage of historical and chronological time. TheTemple of Flora is a textual space that involves strategies of possessing and knowing nature through the collection and conquest of plants that represent the colonial inhabitants of the British Empire ensconced in their territories and collected by wealthy Britons as a miniature colonial and exotic world bound between two covers.
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