Botanica: illustrating the exotic | State Library of New South Wales

Botanica: illustrating the exotic

The earliest known published image of an Australian plant appeared in William Dampier’s 1703 book, Journal of a voyage to New-Holland.  From these earliest crude engravings, the public’s desire for information and pictures inspired a blossoming of published works about the strange new flora of Australia. Private and public gardens in England and France competed to be the first to grow exotic flowering species. Highly skilled artists and engravers were employed to record the new flora and the middle and upper classes were eager to purchase published images of these plants which were unlike anything they had ever seen.

Botanica: illustrating the exotic explores the history and tradition of published European botanical illustration and the British and French fascination for exotic Australian plants. Examples from the State Library's collections of early printed books range from 16th century herbals to the detailed scholarly engraved plates produced in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

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Embothrium speciosissimum
Made possible through a partnership with Geoffrey & Rachel O'Conor