Alexander Marshal (c. 1620-1682) painted not to document scientific discoveries, not for publication nor for sale but for pleasure. A highly skilled, although self-taught artist, Alexander Marshal was a horticulturist and famed entomologist who believed the cultivation of plants was essential to the study of the natural world.
The Florilegium of Alexander Marshal (c.1620—82) has been part of the Royal Collection since the times of King George IV. The art is now included in the collections of the Royal Library at Windsor Castle containing 159 folios of exquisite water colors portraying more than 600 different plants, both native and exotic, together with meticulous studies of insects, birds and animals. It is the only surviving example of a flower-book painted by an English artist in the 17th century. This was also the first collection that was made for the pleasure of the eye and not for a herbal. Despite Marshal’s importance as an artist, no full-scale study of his work has ever been published.
The Florilegium of Alexander Marshal at Windsor Castle by Prudence Leith-Ross and Henrietta McBurney was published in 2000 showing the 159 folios beautifully reproduced as a full-page color plates.
Some of Marshal’s works were also included in Amazing Rare Things exhibition curated by David Attenborough. Those of us who saw that exhibit certainly noticed the fresh and bright colors in the art. Mr. Marshal experimented with different pigments extracting them from flowers, berries, roots and gums.
Quite recently the Viking Studia published a condensed version of "The Florilegium of Alexander Marshal" with the title Mr. Marshal’s Flower book containing 140 stunning illustrations and the abridged text from Prudence Leith-Ross and Henrietta McBurney book from 2000.