Sir Hans Sloane’s specimens are the oldest in the Natural History Museum’s botany collection and comprise both his personal collections and those which he purchased from his contemporaries. They are preserved in large folio bound volumes.
Today these collections are more relevant from a historical perspective rather than a scientific one. Nonetheless, they are important collections that provide a timeline of what existed several centuries ago and often reflect habitats and localities which are no longer around.
They also include some special items such as Sloane’s vegetable substances collection, and the first example of Theobroma cacao - the source of cocoa and chocolate - to reach Europe.
Sloane's collections represent an extremely important period for botany. New regions were being explored as the British Empire continued to expand, and there was an increasing interest in and awareness of the importance of natural history. Sloane and his collections were a significant influence on this new era of natural history.
Other collections in the Sloane Herbarium were the first from various regions to reach Europe, including: