Fonds BLT - Thomas Blaikie collection

Letter from James Lee to Thomas Blaikie

Identity area

Reference code



Thomas Blaikie collection


  • 1769 - 1890 (Creation)
  • 1769 - 2018 (Accumulation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

Five boxes, including:
2 printed volumes
3 vellum bound notebooks
17 pieces of correspondence and handwritten notes
4 prints
2 photographs

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Thomas Blaikie was born in 1751 in Corstorphine, the son of a market gardener. It is suggested he may have been a student gardener at RBGE and possibly then worked at Kew, the Hammersmith nursery and Upton House in East Ham for Dr John Fothergill. He was engaged jointly by Dr Fothergill and Dr William Pitcairn to undertake a plant collecting trip in the Swiss Alps from April to December 1775. In September 1776 James Lee of the Hammersmith Nursery engaged Blaikie to provide plants for the Comte de Lauraguais and he was subsequently employed to work on the Comte’s garden in Normandy. From 1778 he was employed in the gardens at Bagatelle by the Comte D’Artois, the youngest brother of Louis XVI and future Charles X. He also worked at St Leu, Monceau and Le Raincy for the Duc de Chartres (who later became Duc D’Orleans and then Philippe Égalité) and undertook a number of private commissions. It is also thought that he was involved in making alterations to the gardens at Malmaison.

Blaikie is credited with introducing the English style of gardening and British gardeners to France, where his method of grafting came to be known as ‘graffe Blaikie’. He died at his house on the rue de Vignes in Paris in 1838. His diaries covering the period 1775 to 1792 were published in 1931, entitled ‘Diary of a Scotch Gardener at the French Court at the end of the Eighteenth Century’.

Archival history

Blaikie's wife is known to have passed items to a friend, who in turn passed them to the Baynham family (source: 'Thomas Blaikie: The 'Capability' Brown of France 1751-1838' - Taylor, Patricia, 2001)

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Cynthia Baynham, July 2018

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The collection dates between 1769 and c2003 and comprises:

  • 3 notebooks including financial records, language studies and diaries;
  • 17 pieces of correspondence and handwritten notes;
  • a printed compendium of Swiss flora;
  • a copy of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress;
  • 4 prints of notable 18th century French figures; and
  • two photographs of items which belonged to Blaikie's family.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

GB235 BLT 1 – Notebooks
GB235 BLT 2 – Correspondence
GB235 BLT 3 – Text books
GB235 BLT 4 – Images

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Material is open for consultation on appointment with the archivist.

Conditions governing reproduction

Permission for reproduction is required from RBGE.

Language of material

  • English
  • French
  • Latin

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

The material is very fragile, requiring careful handling and the use of gloves for photographs.

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

  • Thomas Blaikie – ‘Diary of a Scotch Gardener: at the French court at the end of the eighteenth century’ – ed. Birrell, Francis, 1931 (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Library - F\4\BLA)
  • Thomas Blaikie (1751-1838) : the 'Capability' Brown of France – Taylor, Patricia, 2001 (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Library - F\4\BLA)
  • List of plants at the Jardin du Roi, Paris, 1777, made by Thomas Blaikie in 1777 and edited by R. Clifton in 2008 – Clifton, Richard, 2009 (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Library - FP:165/GER)
  • The L'Heritier Project : the Blaikie Affair – Clifton, Richard, 2009 (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Library - FP:165/GER)
  • Bloody Blaikie! – Rumelhart, Marc, 1999 (unpublished) (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Library - F\4\BLA)
  • Grandes et petites hueres du Parc Monceau : hommage à Thomas Blaikie (1750-1838) jardinier écossais du duc d'Orléans – Deschamps, M.-L, 1981 (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Library - F:85:fi)
  • A catalogue of plants in the Bottanikall garden at Paris, 1777, Blaikie, Thomas and Hope, John, 1777, unpublished (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Library - F\86\f)

Related descriptions

Notes area


The collection also includes two frames that previously held two of the images, but have been damaged in transit. There is also a University of West Virginia baseball cap included by the donor.

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Description control area

Description identifier


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Rules and/or conventions used



Level of detail


Dates of creation revision deletion

May 2019


  • English
  • French



Accession area

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Physical storage

  • Shelf: K:5:4