Banks Florilegium: A significant contribution to science

Banks was appointed as scientist on the Voyage around the world with James Cook. He had a crew of eight who collected collect specimens, drawing and notes including botanical illustrator Sydney Parkinson. Banks returned from the voyage with a significant collection of specimens and illustrations of flora and fauna, with over three-thousand of them had never been seen by European eyes. (Robertson)

Parkinson created over 1300 illustrations and watercolours included copious notes to their properties and colours. He is said to be the first European artist to set foot on Australian soil

But the ship needed to dock at Batavia for repairs. When they left Batavia 84 of the crew were sick with Malaria or dysentery. 23 of crew died, including Parkinson. On Banks’s return he hired artists to complete Sydney Parkinson’s drawings and 18 engravers to create the copperplates, one of which was Frederick Polydore Nodder(fl. 1770-1800) a botanical artist and publisher. The project took 12 years (Banks Florilegium collection.)

The collection of plates was not published during Banks’ life. On his death in 1820 Banks left his specimens and plates to the British Museum. The complete full collection was produced between 1980 and 1990 by Alecto Historical Editions and the British Museum. They used a superior but laborious technique called à la poupée. In some cases, up to 17 colours were applied to the plate with a cotton ball. Each plate to one week to two months to proof. They were compared with Parkinson’s original drawings and notes. Each plate is exceptional and the bound volumes are grand.

This work represents a significant contribution to science.

The Banks Florilegium is lot 100 in our next auction 12 noon Friday 30th July 2021.


Australian Dictionary of Biography.

About the Banks’ Florilegium Copperplate Engravings. The Florilegium Gallery.

Banks’ Florilegium. Alecto Historical Editions

Banks Florilegium Collection. Museum Metadata Exchange. National Museum of Australia

Peltz, L.  Nodder, Frederick Polydore (fl. 1773–1800), botanical artist and publisher. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 11 Jul. 2021, from

Nodder, Frederick Polydore (fl. 1770-c. 1800), Biographical Notes, Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria. Australian National Herbarium.

Robertson, Anne. The Banks Florilegium. Treasures of the State Library of NSW. Australian Collections. 90-92pp.