Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Best books

the 23 most significant books/journals held at the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust Library

1. Banks’s Florilegium/Sir Joseph Banks 

  • Printed from the original plates Banks ordered engraved from the paintings based on sketches by Sydney Parkinson on Cook’s expedition to observe the transit of Venus. 
  • Banks plans to publish were shelved after he ran out of time and money for the project. All 743 copper plates were stored at the British Museum until their publication in the 1980s.

2. The Lycett Collection (2 vols)/Joseph Lycett

  • Erroneously titled Wildflowers of Australia. Formerly attributed to Alan Cunningham, Government Botanist and purportedly showing plants from the 1816-18 expedition of Lt. Oxley.
  • Investigations by professional art historians have uncovered that these colonial era botanical artworks are actually by the convict forger/artist Joseph Lycett.

3. John Gerard’s Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes/John Gerard

  • 2nd ed. 1636
  • John Gerard - physician & herbalist to the court of Elizabeth I.
  • The Herball contains entries for over 2000 types of plants listing their origins, cultivation, medicinal and/or culinary properties.
  • Note: John Gerard’s portrait shown holding a potato plant. The potato is illustrated first time in Gerard’s Herball.

4. De Materia Medica/Pedanius Dioscorides

  • A 1550 edition of a work by a 1st century physician & pharmacologist and botanist practicing as a Legion surgeon during the reign of Nero. 
  • Originally published in 5 volumes. This book is the precursor to all modern pharmacopoeias. Illustrations are woodcuts in keeping with 16th cent practice.

5. The Origin of the Species (1st ed.)/Charles Darwin

  • 1859. A rare first edition, first printing of Darwin’s greatest scientific work. It is signed 'C. Moore Esq. From the author', but is probably not in Darwin’s hand but the hand of either his wife Emma or one of his daughters.
  • Recently restored by Heather McPherson with funds donated by the Friends of The Gardens.

6. Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandae/Robert Brown

  • Published 1810 by Robert Brown and the first treatment in depth of Australian flora. Brown wrote the book after accompanying Matthew Flinders on his historic voyage.
  • The Trust Library copy has corrections and notes in Brown’s own hand and has the original mailing label in the same hand attached to the front endpaper.

7. Flora Antarctica/Joseph Dalton Hooker

8. Flora Tasmaniae/Joseph Dalton Hooker

9. Flora Nova Zelandiae/Joseph Dalton Hooker

  • The three preceding works by J. D. Hooker were the result of his joining Sir James Clark Ross’s Antarctic expedition of 1839-43 where he served as a commissioned assistant-surgeon and as naturalist. The works are illustrated and lithographed by the 19th century English botanical artist Walter Hood Fitch.

10. Phycologia Australica/William Henry Harvey

  • 5 volume set, 1858-63. Classic in the field of phycology and illustrated by the author in colour.

11. A Specimen of the botany of New Holland/James Edward Smith

  • Published in 1795, this work shows some of the first published coloured illustrations of Australian plants, including the first coloured illustration of the Waratah.

12. Systema Naturae (12th ed.)/Carolus Linnaeus 

  • 1766-68. This work outlines Linnaeus’s ideas for the hierarchical classification of species. The book was published in Latin. The first edition appeared in 1735; it went through 13 editions in Linnaeus' lifetime, growing from ten pages in 1735 to 3000 pages in 1770. The system presented by Linnaeus is used today as the basis for modern scientific classification of the biological world.

13. Species Plantarum (2nd ed.)/Carolus Linnaeus

  • 1762-63. Recognised as a turning point in botanical nomenclature as it firmly entrenched the binomial classification system and began bringing order to a chaotic botanical taxonomy.

14. Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandae/Ferdinand Bauer

  • 1813. Bauer accompanied Robert Brown on Flinders expedition around Australia. He devised a unique numerical coding system to remind him how to complete colouring his paintings when back in England.
  • Bauer worked at an amazing speed from fresh specimens enabling him to get the colours correct and to code the unfinished sketches accurately. On their first arrival at Port Jackson, Bauer had completed 350 sketches of plants and 100 of animals, in about 11 packing cases.

15. Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae/Ferdinand von Mueller

  • 1862-81 in 11 volumes. Major Australian historical taxonomic work. Consulted even today for botanical descriptions.

16. Flora Australiensis/George Bentham

  • 1863-78 in 7 volumes. Over 7000 species catalogued and described.

17. Species Hepathicarum/Johann Lindenberg

  • 1839-51. One of the first extensive and detailed works on the families of mosses.

18. Forest Flora of New South Wales/Joseph Henry Maiden

  • 1904-22 in 8 volumes.

19. Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Plants/John Claudius Loudon

  • 1841. One of many important works by the ‘father’ of landscape architecture and design. This volume was one of the first 26 books acquired for the Trust Library.

20. Loddiges Botanical Cabinet/Conrad Loddiges

  • 1817-33 in 20 volumes. The prints within portray 'plants from all countries' cultivated in the Loddiges nursery at Hackney, London. 
  • Many illustrations were done by members of the Loddiges family, with the engravings by George Cooke.

21. Rumphia/Carl Ludwig Blume

  • 1835-48.  Blume’s ‘tribute’ to Georg Eberhard Rumpf’s pioneering botanical work in the Dutch East Indies. Contains beautiful engravings which are hand water coloured. They were originally drawn by the German botanical illustrator Johan Christian Peter Arckenhausen (1784-1855).

22. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (1787+)/William Curtis et al.

  • Now well over two hundred years old, Curtis's Botanical Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Has been published continuously since 1787.
  • Illustrations hand coloured till 1947. Many of John Gould’s illustrations of birds have used copies of plant illustrations represented in Curtis’s.

23. Transactions of the Linnean Society (London) (1791+)

  • The first journal published by the world's oldest extant biological society which remains today a leading forum for debate and discussion of natural history in all its branches. It is one of the longest established biological journals.
  • When it transformed into the later Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (London) (1858+), it became the venue for many of Darwin’s & Wallace’s early papers including their now famous joint letter announcing the principles of their theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

List prepared by Miguel Garcia

Display for AGHS
Showing off some of our treasures to the Australian Garden History Society

Book display 2

Rare books 2

book display
Rare books from the collection

Banks Florilegium page
A plate from Banks' Florilegium