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Florilegium Collection

Banks’ Florilegium is the collection of botanical prints showing some of the plants collected by Joseph Banks on Cook’s first voyage around the world (1768 – 1771). Accompanying Banks was the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander, a former student of Carl Linnaeus, who helped describe and name the plants. Altogether Banks collected over 30,000 specimens, many of which had not been seen or described.

The young Edinburgh artist, Sydney Parkinson, was engaged as the natural history artist for the Endeavour voyage and his botanical drawings recorded many plants for the first time. Parkinson drew nearly 1000 of these plants, but died on the return voyage soon after the ship left Batavia (modern Jakarta).

On his return, Banks employed a team of watercolour artists to create finished studies of the plants, then several engravers who made copper plates for printing. Only a few of these were printed at the time and a full set was not printed until the 1980s – nearly 200 years later! Although the prints were originally intended to be printed in black and white, the team at Alecto Historical Editions chose to use a technique called ‘à la poupée’ to produce them in full colour. It took 10 years to print the completed plates.

The Museum has a full set of the 738 botanical prints of Sir Joseph Banks' Florilegium, and engaged in several projects bringing them alive for our audiences. Some volunteers participated in ‘Travels with my Plant’ which built up knowledge about the collection by taking a plant and researching its ‘biographical journey’ through history and across the world, transforming the plants from historically collected specimens into living species with lives and travels of their own.

You can find some of these fascinating journeys here but for reasons of space the selection is relatively brief and full copies are available in the Museum Library for those interested.


Special Notice!

Alecto Historical Editions are offering a special discount of 20% on copies of the prints purchased through the Museum. Use this link to browse the collection:

When you order, apply the discount code WHITBY20 at the checkout. As well as finding one of your favourite prints, you will be making a donation to the Museum as well, thanks to the generosity of Alecto

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