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An oil painting of a garden party at Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria and Alexandra, Princess of Wales are returning to the Palace in an open carriage pulled by two grey horses; in the garden, on the left, the Prince of Wales is conversing to a couple in

Their history, form and function

Sutherland, James

Hortus Medicus Edinburgensis : or, a catalogue of the plants in the Physical Garden at Edinburgh ... / James Sutherland. 1683

RCIN 1057154

Great Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse

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Printed in Edinburgh in 1683, this volume by James Sutherland is a catalogue of the plants of the first Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. On 12 January 1699, Sutherland was awarded the first Royal Warrant connected with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, appointing him as the first Regius Keeper and the first King's Botanist, in addition to his Professorship of Botany at the University of Edinburgh.

In 1670 a small plot at the Palace of Holyroodhouse was sublet by the Scottish physicians Robert Sibbald and Andrew Balfour. They quickly imported a collection of several hundred plants of primarily medicinal interest including new botanical discoveries. The plants were used for study by students at the University of Edinburgh and also to supply the medical profession.

After six years, the quantity of plants and the saturation of the soil forced the Holyrood garden to a new site, then part of the recently drained Nor Loch and now under the southernmost platforms of Waverley Station. After two further moves and expansion, this institution became the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Its establishment at the palace in 1670 made it the second such garden in Great Britain, after Oxford established one in 1621.

James Sutherland oversaw the move of the garden from the palace in 1676, and later published this book, the first catalogue of a plant collection in Scotland which listed the 3000 plants growing at the new physic garden site. The volume remained the standard text for Scottish medical botany until 1864.

This copy of Hortus Medicus Edinburgensis was presented to The Queen by the Regius Keeper and staff of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, 29 June, 1964. It has been on display at the Palace of Holyroodhouse since 2020, to mark 350 years since the physic garden was first established at the Palace in 1670. A new public garden, located behind the historic Abbey Strand buildings, was opened to all visitors in 2020. The new garden is inspired by the original seventeenth-century physic garden and planted with flowers that would have been grown at the time. It is a further addition to the palace’s spectacular setting within the natural landscape of Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat beyond.