I've been doing a bit of research on Mary Delany, the artist whose floral collages so inspired Sybil Connolly. It appears that Delany too was a fascinating and creative woman.
Born in England in 1700, Mary Granville Pendarves Delany was known for her wit, her charm, and her intellect. Like many well-bred ladies of the day, Delany became skilled in both needlework and shellwork, the latter becoming extremely popular in the 18th c. This detail-oriented type work, coupled with her knowledge of Botany, would hold Delany in good stead as she began creating her floral paper collages in the 1770s. As the story goes, one day Delany noticed the similarity between the color of a vibrant geranium and that of a red piece of paper. Delany began to cut the paper into petals and thus created her first "paper mosaick" (her term for her collage work). Until her eyesight failed her in 1782, Delany was prolific with her paper work. Her collection of work, which she called her "Herbal" or Hortus Siccus, was inspired by the numerous plants and flowers that her friends gave her. Or perhaps I should say that her friends were inspired by her work- King George III and Queen Charlotte so admired her work that they supposedly instructed the botanists at Kew Gardens to send Mrs. Delany floral specimens. At the time of her death in 1788, Delany's Hortus Siccus was comprised of ten albums of her work. These albums were later given to the British Museum in 1897.
You'll notice that her collages were pasted onto black paper (I can't confirm whether all of her work was as such, but it seems that most of it was). Occasionally Delany would embellish her work with watercolors, especially if she was having difficulty in achieving the accurate colors. This, however, did not seem to be the rule. Delany was able to source colorful papers, and she was also known to dye her own if particular colors were not available.
On the front sides of her work, Delany tended to include both the scientific and common names of the botanical subjects. You'll also notice that she usually made a cut-out of her initials- MD- on either the bottom right or left corners. From an artistic standpoint, I think it's incredible how detailed the flowers are. Most of her works incorporated hundreds of pieces of cut paper. But what seemed to astonish and impress botanists of that period was the accuracy with which she rendered the flowers. Delany was meticulous about rendering even the smallest detail- veins, stamens, etc.
Unfortunately, images of her work are hard to come by, but I was able to find a few on the web. If you would like to read more about Delany, there is a book that was published a few years ago by one of her descendants- Mrs. Delany: Her Life and Her Flowers. I've just ordered it from Amazon, so I'll let you know if it's a worthwhile book.
Winter Cherry, or Physalis, c. 1772-88 (image from the British Museum)
Bay Leaved (Passiflora laurifolia), c. 1777. There are over 230 paper petals in the bloom of the flower. (Image from the British Museum)
Asphodil Lilly (Crinum Zeylanicum), c. 1778 (image courtesy of the British Museum)
Sea Daffodil (Pancratium maritinum)
A stem of a stock, c. 1781 (part of the Royal Collection)