Proposal for publishing by subscription a work to be entitles Ornamental Groups, descriptive of flowers, birds, shells, fruit, insects, &c. and illustrative of a new theory of colouring. From designs and paintings by M. Gartside. The whole engraved and coloured under her immediate inspection.

[London], printed by W. Bulmer and Co., [1808].

Broadside, folio (310 x 250 mm.), uncut on full sheet, a few creases, but clean and fresh, with some authorial(?) corrections and additional notes (3 lines) in ink.


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Unrecorded broadside prospectus for Mary Gartside’s important work Ornamental Groups, published between 1808 and 1811, which shows her colour theory applied to watercolour painting. The prospectus has twenty lines of text detailing the proposed work.

‘This work will be published in Folio. It will consist of Twelve Numbers, each containing six plates, three coloured, and three in brown, in a style peculiar to the Author; with an appropriate quantity of letter-press … the Plates coloured with the greatest care, so as to be exact representations of the Original Drawings. The Letterpress will treat on the Art of Painting … The first number will be published in the Spring, 1808 [last number amended to ‘9’ so the date now reads ‘1809] …

Mary Gartside (before 1761–1809?) was an English flower-painter and colour theorist. ‘In chronological as well as intellectual terms Gartside can cautiously be regarded as an exemplary link between Moses Harris, who published an influential theory of colour in the second half of the 18th century [Natural System of Colours, 1766] and Goethe’s substantial publications on colour in the early 19th century [Zur Farbenlehre, 1810]. Certain elements of Gartside’s theory might have predated ideas which Goethe elaborated in much greater detail, such as the effect of colour combinations, the significance of light and shade in relations to tints, and the eye of the beholder as the centre and origin of colour perception … She is referred to by Goethe in the historical section of his Theory of Colours’ (A. Loske, “Mary Gartside” A female colour theorist in Georgian England, 2010, pp. 1 and 4).

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