Waller’s botanical studies of common field plants were perhaps intended to accompany the work of John Ray whose Historia Plantarum appeared in 1686-88. This is referenced in the initial paintings of grasses, but the citations do not continue throughout Waller’s series, which therefore should be regarded as an unfinished project, or perhaps work in progress. Not all of the drawings are numbered or in a uniform state of completion. Waller’s artistic purposes seem to change subtly over the series too. Several (but not all) of his plants are represented at actual size, with parts of the whole plant fitted to the paper in side-by-side slices. Later works also contain pencil drawings of sections cut across the plant stem as their author begins to add more structural details.
Richard Waller (c.1660-1715) was a highly talented naturalist and illustrator. He served as a Secretary of the Royal Society and became the literary executor of Robert Hooke. The common and plant names given here are Waller’s (with occasional modern clarifications) as is the numbering.
Paintings 1-2. Common fox tail grass (Gramen phalaroides) and fox tail grass (Gramen alopecuri) with flower details.