The Endeavour botanical illustrations

The modern publication

It was not until the 1980s that the Museum, in association with the publisher Editions Alecto, decided to renovate the copper printing plates which were still in safe storage and then to print from them, for the first time in colour, the complete set of images. A limited edition of 100 sets, under the title of Banks' Florilegium, would be produced. Over ten years the project came to completion, which is an interesting comparison with the eleven years it took Banks to arrange for the engravings to be completed in the eighteenth century. This brought to a close what must be one of the most lengthy printing projects ever and was a fitting tribute to the daring and foresight of Banks, Cook and their brave crews.

It was the first voyage to have been specifically organised for scientific exploration, so the surviving records are ever the more remarkable and are still regularly used by researchers today. Printed catalogues of the artworks were published by the Museum between 1984 and 1987 in three volumes and are still available for researchers. This text is largely based upon the content of those works.

Going to the Moon?

In retrospect, we can see Cook's voyage as being like going to the Moon or Mars today, such were the uncertainties of success or failure, or even a safe return to England. We should remember such bold voyages and keep safe the information and knowledge collected by those involved at the time. Such people were unlikely to know within their own lifetimes just what a contribution to science they were making and how they were going to change the world and human history by making their journey. The assessment of their travels continues today as we in Europe become more aware of our own history and how we interacted with and affected others' histories in distant places. The people...