A Study of Flowers

A Study of Flowers



A study of flowers
signed lower right William Kilburn and signed with initials lower centre WK
watercolour on parchment
15 x 11 in. (38.5 x 28 cm.)

William Kilburn (1745-1818) was an illustrator for William Curtis's Flora Londinensis, as well as a leading designer and printer of calico. A few hundred of his original watercolour designs make up the Kilburn Album, housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
He was the son of a Dublin architect and was an apprentice to a calico printer, but spent his spare time engraving and sketching. He moved to Bermondsey after his father's death, and found living quarters near Curtis's nursery. Within a short while his skills were being used in the Flora Londinensis. He soon returned to calico printing and became successful financially.

In March 1787 Kilburn was the chief petitioner in the request to Parliament to grant copyright to the textile industry. At that time Kilburn was a calico printer at Wallington in Surrey. Ralph Yates, who was a London warehouseman, regularly sold Kilburn's designs to the firm of Peel & Co. in Bury in Lancashire, who would copy the design and produce a cheaper fabric that appeared in shops within a few days. Consequently the House of Commons proposed a Bill to contain such plagiarism, which was to meet furious objections from Carlisle, Aberdeen, Manchester and Lancashire, who felt that their trade would collapse. The bill was passed in May 1787 “An Act for the Encouragement of the Arts of designing and printing Linens, Cottons, Callicoes sic and Muslins by vesting the Properties thereof in the Designers, Printers, Proprietors for a limited Time.” This “limited time” was a period of two months from the date of first publishing.