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Banks' florilegium...

Catalogue record

Place of Creation: London

Published by Alecto Historical Editions in association with the British Museum (Natural History)

Date of creation : 1981-1988

Additional creator : Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820; Solander, Daniel Charles, 1733-1782; Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771

This item is reproduced courtesy of Natural History Museum. It may be printed or saved for personal research or study. Use for any other purpose requires written permission from Natural History Museum and the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.

Format : Artwork, 738 plates in 34 Solander boxes

Donated by The Friends of the State Library of South Australia

This monumental work records the botanical collections made by Sir Joseph Banks and his team of naturalists aboard James Cook's Endeavour , 1768-1770. It includes drawings of plant specimens from South America, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Australia.

The drawings were prepared by Sydney Parkinson during the voyage from specimens collected and preserved. In England, following Parkinson's death, Banks then had the drawings engraved on copper plates for printing. This did not proceed because of the enormous cost involved. The plates were subsequently transferred to the British Museum after Banks' death, and remained unpublished until the early twentieth century, when James Britten arranged to publish a selection. In the Alecto edition, the method used for the colour printing is known as la poupée (rag-doll style). It is meticulous and slow, but produces very distinct colours. Only 100 copies of this edition were published.

It was not until the 1980s that the Museum, in association with the publisher Editions Alecto, decided to renovate the copper printing plates which were still in safe storage and then to print from them, for the first time in colour, the complete set of images. A limited edition of 100 sets, under the title of Banks' Florilegium, would be produced. Over ten years the project came to completion, which is an interesting comparison with the eleven years it took Banks to arrange for the engravings to be completed in the 18th century. This brought to a close what must be one of the most lengthy printing projects ever and was a fitting tribute to the daring and foresight of Banks, Cook and their brave crews.

Banksia serrata [Plate 285] is a species native to the eastern seaboard of Australia. The 76 species of banksia are named after Sir Joseph Banks.


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