79 × 61 cm
743 engravings of plants collected by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Daniel Solander. Printed in colours à la poupée from the original 18th century copper plates with five supplementary plates engraved between 1986 and 1989.
Published in thirty-five Parts by Alecto Historical Editions in association with the British Museum (Natural History) 1980-1990. The thirty-five Parts are presented in green solander boxes that measure approximately, 78.74 x 60.96 x 12.7 cm.
London, Editions Alecto, in association with the British Museum, 1980-1990.
$100,000 (full set)
One of the finest botanical productions of all time: the first complete edition of the full set of engravings from the original plates after Sydney Parkinson, Frederick Polydore Nodder, John Frederick Miller, James Miller, John Cleveley and Thomas Burgis. Banks’ Florilegium comprises an astonishing 743 botanical engravings (each approximately 72 x 56 cms) of plants collected by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Daniel Solander in Maderia, Brazil, Tierra del Fuego, the Society Islands, New Zealand, Australia and Java on Captain Cook’s first voyage round the world in His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour, 1768–1771.
On his return to London in 1771, Banks determined to publish a grand scientific record of his botanical collection. Over thirteen years, while Daniel Solander prepared the accompanying botanical texts, Banks employed five artists to complete the field sketches drawn on board ship from the fresh specimens by Sydney Parkinson, and eighteen engravers to create exquisite copper plate line engravings from the drawings. All of the plants included for publication were new to European botany. By 1784 all of the plates had been completed but, for a variety of reasons, Banks delayed publication.
On his death in 1820, having served as President of the Royal Society for forty years and recognized as the great panjandrum of European science, Banks bequeathed his library and herbarium, together with the Florilegium plates, to the British Museum.
A hundred and sixty years later the unpublished plates, nearly a ton of finest copper, were found encased in their eighteenth-century wrappers, in a cupboard in the Botany Library of the Natural History Museum in London. Joseph Banks, although he had intended to publish them never fulfilled his ambition.
This complete set is offered on behalf of Alecto Historical Editions United Kingdom: it is one of the hors commerce sets retained by the publishers. Accompanying the 35 parts is the original catalogue quarter-bound in leather, containing seven plates in sepia. The engravings were printed for the first time in colour between 1980 and 1990 when the Natural History Museum and Alecto Historical Editions published what was to become the largest printing project of the twentieth century. Alecto’s initial intention was to print in black, but experiments by the Master Printer, Edward Egerton-Williams showed that superb results could be achieved by printing in colour à la poupée. To ensure that each coloured print was botanically accurate, all colours were agreed and approved by the Botanical Editor at the Natural History Museum, with careful reference to the original watercolours held there. Most plates required small botanical details- the tips of stamens or the gradation of colours on a flower, for example – to be painted in by hand by artists using sable brushes.
Each print is encased in a mount which contains the botanical information, together with the date and locality where the specimen was collected, and the names of the artists and engraver who worked on the image.
The set comprises: Parts 1-15 Australia 337 plates; Part 16 Brazil 23 plates; Parts 17-18 Java 30 plates; Part 19 Madeira 11 plates; Parts 20-27 New Zealand 183 plates; Parts 28-31 The Society Islands 89 plates; Parts 32-34 Tierra del Fuego 65 plates; and supplement of 5 plates.
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