Illustrations in the RBGE Library & Archives

With both historical and contemporary works, the RBGE Illustrations Collection provides an illustrated timeline of the development of botanical art from the late 17th century to date.

The Illustrations Collection

  • Contemporary Collection (1900-) - the Contemporary Collection consists of works by artists working primarily in the 20th century to date. It continues to grow and develop through acquisitions, commissioned works and donations and includes works by artists who have studied on one of the Garden's botanical art programmes.


    Watercolour illustration of Araucaria araucana (monkey puzzle) by Isik Guner
  • Historical Collection - the Historical Collection includes original works of art from the 18th and 19th centuries and includes works by artists such as Violet Jacob, Mungo Park and Robert Kaye Greville among many others.


    Illustration of a turtle from the Mungo Park collection
  • India Collections - following medical training in Edinburgh, including a botanical education at RBGE, many Scots found employment in India with the East India company.

    The India Collections include works by local artists, often not named, commissioned by Scots including William Roxburgh, Hugh Cleghorn, Robert Wight and Alexander Gibson (Dapuri).


    Botanical illustration from the Dapuri Collection
  • John Hope CollectionJohn Hope (1725-1786) was Regius Keeper of the RBGE from 1761 to 1786, during which period he moved the Garden from Trinity Hospital to a new, larger site on Leith Walk. 

    The John Hope Collection includes original  drawings and plans of the Garden at Leith  Walk including two drawings by Jacob More,  original botanical drawings by James  Robertson, John Lindsay and William Delacour (1700-1767), and prints by Andrew Bell and  Thomas Donaldson and a collection of  teaching diagrams.


    Teaching Diagram from the John Hope Collection
  • Nature Prints - nature printing comprises a variety of techniques to produce a direct image of a specimen on paper.

    The Nature Prints collection includes a  number of works using this technique ranging in date from the 18th to the 21st century.


    Nature print by John Doughty
  • Photographic Collections - the Photographic Collections includes original photographic images by a wide range of artists including Anna Atkins (cyanotypes), collectors (e.g. George Forrest, Tony Schilling) and the RBGE photographers.

    The taxonomic sequence within the slide  collection consists of more than 20,000  images of named botanical specimens from  the RBGE Living Collection and expeditions. The collection also includes historical and  contemporary images of the gardens at  Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan.


    Image showing a Robert Moyes Adam glass plate negative of a plant in black and white, but the shades are reversed.
  • Teaching Aids - the Illustrations Collection includes a large number of Teaching Aids that were used in lectures by Garden staff such as the former Regius Keepers John Hope and John Hutton Balfour.

    The collection includes original artworks, published posters and botanical models.


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