250 years ago, during the voyage of HMB Endeavour, Captain James Cook and his crew became the first Europeans to set foot on the eastern coast of Australia. Among them was the ship’s naturalist, twenty-seven year old Lincolnshire botanist Joseph Banks, who discovered some 1,300 previously unknown botanical species during this voyage – from Brazil via Tahiti and New Zealand to the continent then known as New Holland.
Banks, whose work on the voyage established him as a scientist of international stature, planned to publish a catalogue of these new specimens, and commissioned copper printing plates from the drawings made during the voyage. However, at Banks’ death in 1820 his Florilegium remained unfinished. The complete set of plates were only printed in 1980-1990, in a limited edition of 116 sets of engravings which provide a remarkable scientific record of plants that had only been seen by very few, if any, western travellers before.
A selection of these beautifully produced engravings from Banks’ Florilegium will feature in a new virtual exhibition, Joseph Banks: A Lincolnshire Botanist in Australia, throughout June 2020 – the month which marks 250th anniversary of the Endeavour’s arrival at Endeavour River in Queensland (where even more new plant species were discovered than at Botany Bay) and the 200th anniversary of Banks’ death.
Curated by Type & Forme, the exhibition’s online format provides an ideal medium for showcasing the craftsmanship that went into the production of the engravings, in a collaboration of botanists, artists, engravers, and printers spanning more than two centuries. Curators Mark James and Anke Timmermann, who are both Fellows of the Linnean Society, comment: ‘Appropriately for an event that celebrates international travel and discovery, our online gallery will be open for visitors from around the globe. We look forward to telling the story of the Endeavour voyage through the history of Banks’ plant discoveries’.
The virtual exhibition Joseph Banks: A Lincolnshire Botanist in Australia launched on 1 June 2020.
In partnership with Type and Form for their ‘Banks Month’ commemorations, The Book Collector has released a free PDF titled: The Joseph Banks Collection. It features three articles from The Book Collector concerning Joseph Banks. Two are from our archive, written by Nicolas Barker and the late Colin Franklin. The third was written by Anke Timmermann for our upcoming Summer 2020 issue.
Keep an ear to the ground for news of our upcoming Podcast of Anke’s article, read by Mark James.