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.
Upon his return, Banks commissioned more than 700 engravings between 1772 and 1784. 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 in a boxed edition (limited to 100 copies) under the direction of the British Museum. The present selection is from these prints, directed by botanist David Mabberley, who has provided expert commentaries, with additional texts by art historian Mel Gooding, setting the works in context as a perfect conjunction of nature, science, and art. An afterword by Joe Studholme describes the history of the modern printing.