Joseph Banks accompanied Captain Cook on his first voyage around the world from 1768 to 1771. A gifted and wealthy young naturalist, Banks collected exotic flora from Madeira, Brazil, Tierra del Fuego, the Society Islands, New Zealand, Australia, and Java, bringing back over 1,300 species that had never been seen or studied by Europeans. On his return, Banks commissioned over 700 engravings. Known collectively as Banks’ Florilegium, they are some of the most precise and exquisite examples of botanical illustration ever created.
The Florilegium was never published in Banks’ lifetime, and it was not until 1990 that a complete set in color was issued under the direction of the British Museum. It is from these prints that the new compact edition of Joseph Banks’ Florilegium is selected, as directed by David Mabberley, who has provided expert botanical commentaries. Art historian Mel Gooding sets the works in context while an afterword by Joe Studholme describes the history of modern printing.
Joseph Banks’ Florilegium is not only a great work of science, but also a major achievement in collaborative Enlightenment art and a volume of outstanding beauty.
Mel Gooding is an art historian, writer, curator, and educator.
David Mabberley is a botanist and writer.
Joe Studholme cofounded Editions Alecto and undertook the printing of Banks’ Florilegium from the original copper plates.