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Printing Banks' Florilegium

Copperplate created in the late 1700s.

In 1980, the British printing firm Alecto Historical Editions took up the task of finally printing the 743 line engravings originally created between 1772 and 1784. A limited edition of 100 full sets, entitled Banks' Florilegium, was printed in full colour directly from the original plates held by the British Museum. The project took 10 years to complete.

The plates were printed on an Albion hand roller press. Up to 15 colours were inked by hand onto every copperplate for each print pulled.

The work involved producing 83,959 perfect impressions. The soft copper of the plates meant a larger print run was difficult. Copper allows for very fine detail in the engraving, but as the plates are run through the press, the lines flatten out and lose their clarity.

The National Museum of Australia acquired set number 5 of Banks' Florilegium in 2007.

Right: This is one of the copperplates created by Banks's team of engravers in the late 1700s. Courtesy: The Natural History Museum, London.

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