Kew Gardens and the Botanical Magazine | State Library of New South Wales

Kew Gardens and The Botanical Magazine

Kew Gardens has been a royal botanic garden since 1759, although it was not a public garden until 1840. In 1772, ownership of the garden was transferred to George III, a king with a great interest in science, botany and exploration. One of the most important influences in the history of the Gardens was George’s relationship with Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820).

A wealthy natural historian, Banks paid his own way as botanist for James Cook’s voyage of discovery to New Holland. Banks’ knowledge and experience impressed George and together they supported and underwrote many scientific collecting expeditions around the world. Banks was interested in the study of exotic plants for economic purposes and the plants and seeds collected on these trips were nurtured at Kew, expanding the gardens and making them a centre of scientific excellence. Under Banks, Kew Gardens developed an international reputation as the pre-eminent European garden for exotic species. Some of the Australian species grown at Kew at the turn of the 19th century are pictured below.

The Botanical Magazine is the world’s longest running periodical featuring coloured plates. It was started in 1787 by William Curtis who ran his own botanical garden and featured beautiful coloured plates of exotic plants. In 1826, Sir William Hooker became editor of the magazine and in 1842, when he became director of Kew Gardens, the magazine began to be produced from Kew, where it is still published today. (It is now known as Curtis's Botanical Magazine.) Although many of the early plates are unsigned, the majority are by artist Sydenham Teast Edwards, who began working for Curtis in 1788 at the age of 19. After 1792, much of the engraving of the plates was done by Francis Sansom. James Sowerby also contributed illustrations. The hand coloured plates shown below date from between 1794 and 1813.

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 > View Delineations of exotick botany on the Library's catalogue Link to catalogue

 > View selections from The botanical magazine on the Library's catalogue Link to catalogue

 > View selections from Curtis's botanical magazine on the Library's catalogue Link to catalogue