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Banks' Florilegium

Banks' Florilegium

Banks' Florilegium is a set of botanical engravings showing plants collected on Cook's first Pacific voyage. Joseph Banks and his party gathered 30,300 specimens of plants representing 3607 species, 1400 of which were then unknown to science.

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1700s engraving that shows an engraving workshop, and the hardened steel tools used to cut a design into a metal plate

Banks planned to publish the botanical results of the Endeavour voyage in a 14-volume folio work. Artist Sydney Parkinson had started illustrating the specimens, but died from malaria late in the voyage. Banks engaged a team of artists to complete colour drawings of the plants. The artists worked under Daniel Solander's supervision and could refer to the plant specimens where necessary. Banks then hired 18 master engravers to make the 743 copperplates. The project continued for 13 years and cost more than £10,000.

Banks never published his florilegium. The plates were eventually transferred to the British Museum. They were finally printed in full more than 200 years later.

Right: This 1700s engraving shows an engraving workshop, and the hardened steel tools used to cut a design into a metal plate.
Courtesy: Lauros/Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library.