Mrs. Delany and Her Circle


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Mark Laird and Alicia Weisberg-Roberts


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At the age of seventy-two, Mary Delany, née Mary Granville (1700-1788), embarked upon a series of nearly a thousand botanical collages, or “paper mosaics,” which would prove to be the crowning achievement of her rich creative life.  These delicate hand-cut floral designs, made by a method of Mrs. Delany’s own invention, vie with the finest botanical works of her time.   More than two centuries later her extraordinary work continues to inspire.


Although best known for these collages, Mrs. Delany was also an amateur artist, woman of fashion, and commentator on life and society in 18th-century England and Ireland.  Her prolific craft activities not only served to cement personal bonds of friendship, but also allowed her to negotiate the interconnecting artistic, aristocratic, and scientific networks that surrounded her.  This ambitious and groundbreaking book, the first to survey the full range of Mrs. Delany’s creative endeavors, reveals the complexity of her engagement with natural science, fashion, and design. 

Published in association with the Yale Center for British Art

Exhibition Schedule:

Yale Center for British Art (9/24/09 – 1/3/10)

Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (2/18/10 – 5/1/10)

Mark Laird is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Alicia Weisberg-Roberts is Assistant Curator of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.



Yale Center for British Art (9/24/09 – 1/3/10)

Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (2/18/10 – 5/1/10)

‘The magnificent catalogue…explores these ideas in greater depth and from the perspective of a greater range of scholarly disciplines than can be adequately represented in an exhibition…Visually enchanting as these images are, they stand as microcosms of her entire world…Mrs Delaney and her Circle is a model of inter-disciplinary collaboration.’ —Timothy Wilcox, Apollo

‘History has often been unkind to the amateur artistic endeavours of women, but this book puts this right...This beautifully illustrated book shows the paper collages in detail and explains how they were created…It brings a remarkable woman to our attention, and through her shows that it is never too late to produce a masterpiece.’—Bill Spence, Yorkshire Gazette and Herald

‘A book that is scholarly, yet also readable and sumptuously produced…A timely reassessment of an underestimated figure (and at £40, a snip).’—Tim Richardson, Country Life Best Books of 2009

Mrs Delaney and Her Circle contains essays on Delaney’s astonishing range of accomplishments, and fine illustrations of her handiwork.’—Jane Shilling, Daily Mail

‘[A] rounded portrait of a remarkable woman.’—Anne Gatti, The Times

‘The most beautifully produced garden book of the year, filled with sumptuous colour images and printed on unusually thick paper … Readable essays by various academic hands illustrate [Mrs Delany’s] prowess and originality … Several of the authors note the way Delany’s oeuvre has been sidelined by (mainly male) art historians … but this volume is rich recompense for such treatment in the past.’Tim Richardson, Daily Telegraph

‘Yale books have class, so Mrs Delaney (sic), ‘the woman of fashion of all ages’  in Burke’s phrase, would surely applaud this elegant commemoration. It brings Delaney studies to a new pitch of scholarly refinement, with a dozen experts exploring the various aspects of her achievement in sometimes clinical detail.'John McEwen, Spectator

“[A] gorgeous botanical art book … This is the story of how one woman’s creativity forged friendships and helped make sense of the world.” — Artists and Illustrators

‘More than two centuries later [Mrs Delany’s] delicate hand-cut floral designs continue to inspire … Mrs Delany and Her Circle is the] definitive book on her life, work and times.’—Daily Telegraph

‘Handsome, beautifully designed and profusely illustrated book…backed up by superb illustrations, fastidious references, expert consultation and an exemplary bibliography, the authors succeed in showing how closely linked were Mrs Delany’s interests in fashion, the natural world, and physical engagement with small collectible objects.’—Nicola Gordon Bowe, Irish Arts Review

‘Editors, Laird & Weisberg-Roberts have achieved a fine balance between cultural context and a meticulous focus on specific aspects of her work…The book, designed by Derek Birdsall, is itself a work of art and contains more than 250 colour illustrations.’ — Elizabeth Eger, Times Literary Supplement

‘Beautifully illustrated, groundbreaking book.’ — Leonie Highton, House and Garden

"Handsome, sumptuously illustrated . . . of interest to specialists and laypeople alike."--Jon Lackman, Art History Newsletter

"The sumptuous Mrs Delany & Her Circle…. A book for enthusiasts of botanical painting."—Philip Stephen, Historic Gardens Review

Winner of the 30th Annual George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award given by the Art Libraries Society of North America

Winner of the First Place in the category of Exhibition Catalogues (over $10), given by the New England Museum Association

Finalist for the 2011 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award, given by the College Art Association
ISBN: 9780300142792
Publication Date: December 1, 2009
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the Yale Center for British Art
416 pages, 9 1/2 x 12
10 b/w + 300 color illus.
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