Heritage Apples at Royal Horticultural Society

October 16, 2017

The Alexander Apple 1818. Watercolour by William Hooker (1779-1832)

Heritage Apples at Royal Horticultural Society

The Alexander Apple 1818. Watercolour by William Hooker (1779-1832).

The Alexander Apple 1818. Watercolour by William Hooker (1779-1832).

Heritage Apples

People have been growing apples for centuries – developing thousands of apple varieties, each with their own unique taste and appearance. Sadly, many of these varieties have disappeared or are very rare.

In 1805 Thomas Knight, one of the founder members of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), encouraged gardeners to experiment with producing new and improved kinds of fruit. Detailed descriptions of hundreds of apple varieties were recorded at RHS meetings. Before the invention of photography, the Society also needed accurate visual images so it commissioned highly skilled artists to paint apples and other fruit.

William Hooker (1779-1832) was the first artist employed by the Society to paint fruit varieties in an extensive project that lasted from 1815–1823. Many of the featured specimens were supplied by members. Over 200 paintings, by Hooker and other artists, make up this early collection which are bound in albums known as ‘Hooker’s Fruit Drawings’. Many of the varieties in these beautiful paintings no longer exist. The original paintings are held in the RHS Lindley Library in London.

Learn more about the importance and history of Heritage Apples at Royal Horticultural Society.

Jak Kaw Press has also made available their seven-volume Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada. This comprehensive work documents over 16,000 apple varieties, their histories, along with 1,400 watercolor illustrations. Compiled by expert pomologists, this work is of particular interest to researchers and botanical illustrators, alike.

The Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library collects monographs about Apple cultivars in our Research Collection (Call number MH 126.2). Please contact us and visit the library for more information.

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