Joseph Banks 'Florilegium' Botanical Engravings
Where would we be without Banks' Florilegium, a record of the botanical collections made by Joseph Banks and his team of naturalists aboard James Cook's Endeavour? Banks is credited with introducing the Western world to native Australian flora including his namesake, the Banksia.
In 1770, Captain Cook made the first landfall on the Continent of Australia, where he named Botany Bay after the unique specimens retrieved by the botanists Joseph Banks.
Cook's first voyage in H.M.S. Endeavour was originally commissioned by King George III for scientific purposes. One of Cook's sealed orders were to search the south Pacific for signs of the postulated rich southern continent of Terra Australis. Cook mapped coastlines, while Joseph Banks and his team recorded botanical specimens at each landing.
Banks' Florilegium is a collection of copperplate engravings of plants collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander while accompanying Captain Cook's first voyage around the world. The engraved copper plates of superb quality, were made from the completed watercolour drawings. In order to achieve accurate colour and fine detail the 'a la poupee' technique of applying colour directly to the plate's surface requiring ‘as much care and artistry as any monk in a medieval scriptorium’ was used.
Bank's Florilegium is held in the collection of the British Museum (Natural History), as well as in the collection of all Australian State and National libraries. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1988, declared these works "... an outstanding contribution to the flow of information about Australia's unique flora and fauna". What a wonderful gift of knowledge these engravings make.