In collaboration with the Natural History Museum in London ARTstor has digitized and now released a collection of watercolors, drawings, and related paintings from Captain James Cook’s voyage aboard the HMS Endeavour from 1768 to 1771. The Endeavour illustrations available through ARTstor include over 950 images, approximately two thirds of which consist of botanical illustrations, while the remaining third depict zoological subjects.

The Natural History Museum houses an extraordinary collection of over 70 million plant and animal specimens, including those amassed by the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) during his 1768-1771 journey with Captain James Cook aboard the HMS Endeavour. Banks and his civilian entourage — which included a botanist, his secretary, two artists, four servants, and two dogs — joined the standard naval complement of 85 men when the Endeavour set sail from Plymouth harbor on August 26, 1768. During ship’s occasional landfalls, Banks would venture on shore, frequently joined by Daniel Solander (1736-1782), a fellow botanist and pupil of Carl Linnaeus. Together, they collected animal and plant specimens and brought them back to the ship to be illustrated by Sydney Parkinson (1745-1771). Banks and his retinue made important scientific contributions, as they collected and documented more than 1,000 animal species and 3,600 plant species, approximately 1,400 of which were previously unknown.

Although the scientific community eagerly awaited the publication of Banks’ definitive catalog of the scientific results of the Endeavour expedition based on the collected specimens and Parkinson’s drawings, Parkinson would never complete this project and the Endeavor findings were never published. Fortunately the specimens that Banks collected, as well as the drawings, watercolors, and engravings that he commissioned, were preserved at the Natural History Museum in London. With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Museum has digitized these watercolors and drawings, both those executed by Parkinson during the Endeavour voyage, as well as the paintings later completed from his initial sketches by artists in Banks’ employ, such as Frederick Polydor Nodder, John Frederick Miller, and John Cleveley II.

To browse these new ARTstor images, from ARTstor’s Welcome Page click on “Image Gallery” and then select “The Natural History Drawings of the Endeavour Voyage, 1768-1771 (Natural History Museum, London).” Or search the keywords “endeavour botanical.”

For more information, please view the collection page online.