Botanical Loss

In 1799 Robert John Thornton released the first installment of the book “The Temple of Flora.” This book was the first large color floral volume ever produced. Inspired by Linnaeus, the founder of modern botany, Thornton set out to represent the newly discovered sexual systems of plants through commissioned paintings.

Only a few of these original copies exist and one resides at the Missouri Botanical Garden Research Library, one of the largest botanical libraries in the country. A few years ago Taschen approached the library to make a new edition. After making very high quality scans for Taschen the library converted the files to jpeg 2000 and uploaded them as archival web quality images to the Biodiversity Heritage Library online.

A piece of software was written to compare pixel by pixel the high quality scan of the book and the digital online surrogates. If the color value of the same pixel from the two files was the same, the produced pixel was black. If the pixels were different, the color difference was produced. In doing this for all pixels, images that represent the loss in quality or color shift between the two files was produced.