Historical Collections

The Historical Collection of illustrations includes original works of art from the 18th and 19th centuries

The collection of historical botanical art includes works by the following artists:

  • John George Champion (1815-1854)

    • A bound volume including several thousand drawings made in Ceylon and China 

    Alexander Dickson (1836-1887)

    • Delicate drawings of plant morphology made by Dickson during his period as Regius Keeper (1880-1887), probably as visual notes for his famous blackboard drawings

    Reginald Farrer (1880-1920)

    • Watercolours made in the field in western China and Burma

    John Nugent Fitch (1853-1922)

    • Illustrations of Soqotran plants made for Isaac Bayley Balfour (the collection also includes drawings by Matilda Smith and Harriet Thistleton-Dyer)

    Robert Kaye Greville (1794-1866)

    • Scottish landscape drawings in graphite
    • Original watercolours for the unpublished book Plant Scenery of the World (see sample illustration on this page)
    • Graphite illustration of Asplenium monanthemum
    • Two watercolour illustrations of Fucus digitatus (February 1819)
    • Watercolour illustration of Schizaea rupestris
    • Watercolour illustration of Hymenophyllum spp.
    • Watercolour illustration of Acrostichum spp.
    • Watercolour illustration of Hermannia inflata
    • Two original graphite / ink illustrations for Plates IV and V that accompanied Greville's article "On the botanical characters of the British Oaks", Transactions of the Botanical Society, Volume 1, pages 65-69, 1841
    • Watercolour illustration of Woodsia ilvensis
    • see also the John Hutton Balfour collection of teaching diagrams
    Illustration by Robert Kaye Greville
  • Elizabeth Haig (1871 - )

    Elizabeth was the third daughter of James Richard Haig of Blairhill and Highfield.

    • Collection of around 450 watercolours of mainly Mediterranean flora (Italy and Cyprus)
    • A small collection of studies of Scottish macrofungi

    Samuel Holden (c.1800-1860)

    Holden, active between 1830 and 1850, appears to have specialised in orchid paintings with several other examples of his work held in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London

    • 1 pencil and watercolour with gum arabic painting of Orchidaceae: Stanhopea oculata (unframed)

    William Hooker (1779-1832)

    • Phlox maculata, watercolour, 1821 (see section of illustration on this page)

    Violet Jacob (1863-1946)

    Violet Augusta Mary Frederica Kennedy-Erskine was born on the 1st September 1863 at House of Dun, Montrose, Angus. She is best known as a writer, who published novels, short stories and poetry in Scots and English.

    • Five bound volumes of watercolours made by the Scottish author and poet whilst a military wife in India
    • Index to collection, created by Regina Davidson

    Elizabeth Margaret McNab (1846-1926)

    The eldest daughter of RBGE Head Gardener / Curator James McNab (1810-1878); a few of James’ own botanical drawings are in the RBGE Archives

    • 2 bound volumes of 40 watercolour drawings of British plants
    Phlox maculata
  • Mungo Park (1771-1806)

    • A bound volume of 53 drawings from Park’s first expedition to West Africa in 1795 (see sample illustration on this page)

    Samuel Edward Peal

    • A facsimile copy of the exquisite drawings of the grasses of Assam made by the tea planter and artist Peal by James Murray Foster (1836-1879). It is fortunate that Foster made the copy, as the originals were destroyed in a fire.

    Charlotte Cowan Pearson (1837-1917)

    • Album of botanical paintings of British plants, made in a variety of Scottish and Yorkshire localities by an outstandingly talented amateur artist

    Mrs E. Powell (c.1810-1870)

    Very little is known about this artist, including her first name

    • 8 pencil and watercolour with gum arabic paintings of Orchidaceae; species illustrated include Cymbidium bicolour (unframed), Lycaste skinneri (framed), Oncidium phymatochilum (unframed), Dendrobium nobile (framed), Miltonia candida and M. clowesii (framed), Laelia pumila (framed), Dendrobium densiflorum and D. linawianum (framed) and Dendrobium devonianum (framed)

    Augusta Innes Withers (1792-1877)

    Augusta Hanna Elizabeth Innes Withers (née Baker) was perhaps best known for her illustrations for John Lindley's Pomological Magazine and her collaboration with Sarah Drake on Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala by James Bateman

    • 1 watercolour painting of Orchidaceae: Cattleya mossiae (unframed)
    Image of a turtle from the Mungo Park collection
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