Pierre Bulliard, 'Cuckoo's Pint

Pierre Bulliard, 'Cuckoo's Pint

Pierre Bulliard (1742-93)
Cuckoo’s Pint, Arum maculatum
Plate from ‘Herbier de la France’
Published in Paris in parts between 1780 and 1795
Colour engraving
Museum no. 29638:534

This print is one of about 600 illustrations from Bulliard’s Herbier de la France, published in parts between 1780 and 1795. All of the prints in this ambitious herbal were drawn, engraved and colour-printed by the author. The delicately modulated colour is achieved entirely by printing with three tint plates over an engraved black outline and shading. The Herbier de la France is one of the most impressive examples of colour printing in the history of botanical illustration, and is unusual in needing no supplementary hand-colouring.

The way in which the book was organised provides an interesting example of the confusion that reigned during the period. When labelling each plant, Bulliard embraced the classification system developed by the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-78) in the mid 18th century. This system, still in use today, relies on grouping plants according to their reproductive similarities and giving each species a fixed, two-part Latin name. However, when determining the order of the book, Bulliard retained a much older herbal convention in grouping them according to their use, whether edible, medicinal or, like the cuckoo’s pint, poisonous.

This print can be found in Print Room Box DP1.