London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1820. Third edition, enlarged with a new plate of a species of grass (Plate 5) and its corresponding description, which were not included in the first or second editions. The first edition was published in 1817. Early editions are uncommon in commerce. With twenty-one hand-colored plates of botanical specimens by George Sowerby, plus two half-page illustrations printed in black. Plate two is a double plate. Still, quite a good copy, uncommon in the original boards. Original pink boards. Spine cracked but sealed to keep binding sound. Light soiling to boards, some rubbing to corners, hinges tender. Edges untrimmed. Ink signature to title page: “Catherine Boyd, April 5, 1821.” Some offsetting from plates and light occasional foxing. A few leaves in F gathering are loose but laid in at original position. Twelvemo. xxii, 263 pp. Item #16871
Conversations on Botany is an introduction to Linnaean taxonomy for children in which a mother explains the topic to her young son. The work was originally attributed to Jane Marcet, author of Conversations on Chemistry (1906) and Conversations on Natural Philosophy (1819), but has since been correctly attributed to Sarah Mary Fitton (1796 - 1874) and her sister Elizabeth Fitton (fl. 1817-1834). In the introduction to the present work, the Fitton sisters credited Maria Edgeworth as an influence and noted that the title of Conversations on Botany was inspired by “the author of the admirable ‘Conversations on Chemistry,’” (pp. viii-ix).
Sarah Mary Fitton and Elizabeth Fitton wrote Conversations on Botany as part of the series of elementary science works published by Longmans, which included mostly titles by Jane Marcet. Conversations on Botany was very popular and went through nine editions before 1840. Sarah Mary was also the author of children’s books, short stories; and other works botany, including the collection of lectures Four Seasons: A Short Account of the Structure of Plants (1865). In 1865, the Belgian botanist Eugène Coemans (1825 – 1871) named a genus of shrubs Fittonia in honor of the Fitton sisters.