Editions Alecto logo


Alecto Historical Editions logo


About Alecto
Audubon Birds
Banks Florilegium
Ferdinand Bauer
Bodmer's America
William Daniell
Picture Gallery
The History The Edition The Images Order Prints


There can be very few things more exciting for a publisher than the opportunity to bring to completion a piece of history. And when that history involves two of the great men of the 18th century and one of the epic voyages of discovery of all time one can only marvel at one's good fortune.

J.G. Studholme Editions Alecto Limited

Banks' Florilegium has been published in the firm belief that from the combined points of view of science, history and the art of botanical engraving there is no satisfactory substitute for a comprehensive printing from the original plates. The historical interest and aesthetic quality of these engravings speak for themselves. From the scientific point of view the engravings are highly relevant to the correct application of a number of botanical names. They have the advantage of depicting species from the dried specimens. Banks' Florilegium will facilitate comparisons between the earliest graphic depictions and subsequent written descriptions.

Banks' Florilegium has been published in thirty-four parts in the following order:

I-XV Australia 337 plates
XVI Brazil 23 plates
XVI1-XVIII Java 30 plates
XIX Madeira 11 plates
XX-XXVII New Zealand 183 plates
XXVI11-XXX1 The Society Islands 89 plates
XXX11-XXXIV Tierra del Fuego 65 plates

The engravings have been printed in colour à la poupée, the printer working each of the colours into the single copperplate with a rolled up 'dolly' of cotton tarlatan (the poupée). All previous impressions of the plates had been taken in black with superb results, but with all the information left behind by Parkinson and his contemporaries about the colour of each drawing, it was felt that the plates ought to be full colour. Hand colouring had been tried over lightly printed impressions but regardless of the excellent results, anything but a tiny edition was out of the question for economical reasons. Edward Egerton-Williams, the printer in charge, then decided to experiment with printing in colour directly, from the plate.

The publishers decided to use this technique (developed by the Dutchman Johannes Tayler at the end of the seventeenth century) after experiments demonstrated that it produces the most satisfying overall result scientifically and aesthetically. It achieves the best balance between the need to be accurate in terms of original water-colours and the need to show the beauty, of the engraved lines including their effects of tonal subtlety.

Often as many as ten, and in some cases up to fifteen, different colours are inked into the plate with a rolled up piece of cloth or 'dolly' (hence the name 'rag-doll style or à la poupée, in French). The plate, covered with dampened paper is then passed once through the press and the finished print is taken.

The whole process of inking, printing and cleaning up to get ready for the next impression can take anywhere up to three hours depending on the intricacy of the engraving. Fifty plates at a time were taken from the British Museum for the 110 impressions taken from each one.

The plates are virtually uniform in size measuring 457 x 305 mm. Enough paper was hand-made and watermarked AHE for the entire publication by the Inveresk Paper Company. The plates are printed on sheets of 330 gsm Somerset mould-made paper measuring 724 x 556 mm and are protected by a double-fold sheet of Somerset mould-made 330 gsm paper which is acid free and cut out to form a window mount.

The compilation of botanical information has been under the direction of the British Museum (Natural History). It consists of the relevant botanical, geographical and historical facts (including the names of the artists and engravers) which are printed on the individual mounts.

The typography was designed by Ian Mortimer, hand-set in Founders' Caslon Old Face and Old Face Open, and printed on a 19th century Albion handpress at I.M. Imprimit.

The guiding principle for all of Banks' work was to demand the highest possible standards from both his scientists and his artists. Indeed, it is this very perfectionism which contributed to the delay and eventual abandonment of his plans to publish in the 18th century. Nobody can know precisely the form his "grand and stylish publication" would have taken. It is our aim and hope that, had he been alive today, he would have approved of our efforts.

Joe Studholme.

To contact us:

Alecto Historical Editions
The Court House
Lower Woodford
United Kingdom

Phone: 01722 782 544
E-mail: joestudholme@icloud.com

About Alecto | Banks Florilegium | Bodmer's America
Audubon Birds | William Daniell - Voyage Round Great Britain | Ferdinand Bauer |