Henry J. Noltie


B.A. University of Oxford 1978
Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies, University of Leicester 1985
Ph.D. University of Edinburgh 2001

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR
Phone + 44 (0) 131 248 2936
Email h.noltie@rbge.org.uk

Honorary Research Associate, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Senior Research Associate, Centre for World Environmental History, University of Sussex.

Research Interests

My work for the last ten years has concerned historical aspects of the herbarium and archive collections of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. This arose from using these collections for taxonomic purposes, while writing accounts of monocot families for the Flora of Bhutan (Noltie 1994, 2000). It became apparent that there were much wider ways of looking at the Indian collections, by investigating the scientific and social history that led to their formation by Scottish East India Company surgeons. Many links required to be re-established between scattered parts of the collection within the RBGE building – illustrations and archives in the library, dried specimens in the herbarium. It was also necessary to study similar and related material in other collections (especially Kew and the Natural History Museum), but much of the associated archival material needed to understand the history of the collections lay in the Asia, Pacific and African Collections (formerly India Office Collections) of the British Library, in archives in India, and in the Hooker Correspondence at Kew.

One of my main focuses of interest has been the vast collection of botanical drawings, and copies of drawings from printed sources, made for these Scottish surgeons by Indian artists. The largest part of these came from the collection made by H.F.C. Cleghorn, but other very important material (in smaller quantities) apparently came as ‘duplicates’ from Kew, ultimately from the India Museum. For other major collections, including the Wight and Dapuri material to be discussed below, the provenance remains unknown.

This work has resulted in the curation of a series of major exhibitions and illustrated publications. The exhibitions have been held in the RBGE gallery at Inverleith House: Indian Botanical Drawings 1790–1859 (1998), The Dapuri Drawings (2002), Rungiah & Govindoo: South Indian Botanical Drawings 1826–1853 (2006), Raffles’ Ark Redrawn: Natural History Drawings from the Collection of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (2009), Forests and Gardens of South India: Botanical Drawings Commissioned by H.F.C. Cleghorn (2010).

Publications started with a survey of the major drawings collections (1999). Next (2002) came a major monograph on the drawings made for Alexander Gibson in the 1840s at the Dapuri Botanic Garden of the Bombay Presidency. This book includes a biography and bibliography of Gibson, the first Forest Conservator of the Bombay Presidency. Work continued to Robert Wight, the most significant taxonomist working in South India in the first half of the 19th century, but also an important economic botanist working on the introduction of American Cotton cultivation. This work resulted in four volumes – a nomenclatural guide to the new species and genera described by Wight (2005, which won the Stafleu Medal), and, in 2007, a three-decker work consisting of a substantial biography of Wight, especially his taxonomic and economic work, a volume of the work of his artists Rungiah and Govindoo, and a travelogue outlining the means by which the project was undertaken. Currently a similar project is underway on Hugh Cleghorn, for which sponsorship is still required.

Selected Publications

H.J. Noltie. (1994). The Flora of Bhutan including a Record of Plants from Sikkim and Darjeeling. Vol 3 part 1. Edinburgh: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

H.J. Noltie (1999). Indian Botanical Drawings, 1793–1868, from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Edinburgh: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

H.J. Noltie (2000). Flora of Bhutan, volume 3 part 2. The Grasses of Bhutan.  Edinburgh: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Y.T. Zhao, H.J. Noltie & B. Mathew (2000). Iridaceae in Flora of China 24: 297–313 (eds Wu, Z.-Y. & Raven, P.H). Beijing & Missouri.

H.J. Noltie (2002). The Dapuri Drawings: Alexander Gibson and the Bombay Botanic Gardens. Edinburgh & Woodbridge: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in association with Antique Collectors’ Club.

J. Kirschner, F. Miyamoto, F. and H.J. Noltie (2002). Juncus sect. Stygiopsis. In: J. Kirschner et al. Juncaceae 2: Juncus subg. Juncus, Species Plantarum, Flora of the World.  Part 7: 74–135. Canberra: ABRS.

H.J. Noltie (2005). The Botany of Robert Wight. Regnum Vegetabile volume 145. Ruggell: A.R.G. Gantner Verlag.

H.J. Noltie (2006). Robert Wight and the Illustration of Indian Botany – the 2005 Hooker Lecture. The Linnean, Special Issue No. 6.

H.J. Noltie (2006). Articles on ‘Calcutta Botanic Garden’ (p. 85), ‘Indian Botanic Gardens’ (pp. 234–6), ‘Royal Botanic Gardens Peradenyia’ (p. 420) and ‘Saharunpur Botanic Garden’ (p. 427) for The Oxford Companion to the Garden (ed. P. Taylor). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

H.J. Noltie (2007). Robert Wight and the Botanical Drawings of Rungiah & Govindoo. 3 vols: 1 – The Life and Work of Robert Wight; 2 – Botanical drawings by Rungiah and Govindoo; 3 – Journeys in Search of Robert Wight. Edinburgh: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

H.J. Noltie (2009). Raffles’ Ark Redrawn: Natural History Drawings from the Collection of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. London & Edinburgh: The British Library & Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in association with Bernard Quaritch Ltd.

Zhang Shuren & H. J. Noltie (2010). Kobresia in Flora of China. 23: 269–285 (eds Wu Zhengyi, P.H. Raven & Hong Deyuan. Beijing & St Louis: Science Press & Missouri Botanical Garden Press. (Interactive version of key on:
http:/flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/NaviKey/Kobresia/Kobresia_NaviKey.html)

H.J. Noltie (2011). John Hope (1725–1786). Alan G. Morton’s Memoir of a Scottish Botanist – a new and revised edition. Edinburgh: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Related Links

John Hope Exhibition Catalogue

Robert Wight Order Form

Forests and Gardens of South India Guide

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