'Astonishing' rare plant paintings on display in Oxford

An echinops Image copyright Bodleian Libraries
Image caption Only 25 copies of the Flora Graeca were ever produced

The paintings behind one of the rarest and most expensive botanical and zoological books have gone on display.

The Flora Graeca took 34 years (1806-40) to produce and contains watercolour paintings by botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer.

He made hundreds of sketches during a two-year trip in Greece and Turkey before spending six years painting them in Oxford, where they are being shown.

Curator Stephen Harris said they were "astonishingly accurate".

Only 25 copies of the book were published, due to it having 10 double folio volumes and numerous illustrations, and it then cost more than £620.

The display, at the Weston Library, also includes paintings of marine animals never seen in public before.

Image copyright Bodleian Libraries
Image caption The book cost £620 when it was first published in the 18th Century

It is estimated Bauer, who died in 1826, made a painting every one-and-a-half days and used a unique numbering system to ensure he used the most accurate colours.

In some cases, he saw the plant or animal once and painted it up to six years later.

Mr Harris said: "Bauer's paintings are among the world's finest natural history illustrations.

"It's great to be able to show the materials, methods and processes Bauer used to produce these remarkable paintings and show them in the city where they were created."

Image copyright Bodleian Libraries
Image caption Bauer also created ink drawings of Athens and Constantinople

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