Banks' Florilegium: engravings of the plants collected on Captain Cook's 1st voyage round the world

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - 18:30

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Banks' Florilegium: the engravings of the plants collected on Captain Cook's first voyage round the world in HMS Endeavour, 1768-1771, a talk by Mr Joe Studholme, Chairman of the Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum Trust.

Captain Cook was accompanied on the Endeavour by a scientific party, led by the great 18th century polymath Joseph Banks and the botanist Daniel Solander. Everywhere they made a landfall Banks and Solander went ashore to collect plants, which were drawn in watercolour from the fresh specimens by their natural history draftsman, Sydney Parkinson.

On the Endeavour's return to England in 1771, Banks determined to produce a grand publication of the botanical material and over the next thirteen years he employed eighteen engravers to create 743 copper plate line engravings of the plants new to European botany. By 1784 all was complete, but for a variety of reasons Banks delayed publication and when he died in 1820 his collections, including the material from the Endeavour voyage, were bequeathed to the British Museum.

In the late 1970s Joe Studholme came upon the plates, still unpublished and wrapped in their 18th century paper, in a cupboard in the Botany Department of the Natural History Museum. He will tell the story of Cook's epic voyage in the 18th century and of the first publication of the plates by his company, Editions Alecto, two hundred years later.