Guide to the Papers of Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Banks, Joseph, Sir
Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1773 - 1822
Collection Number
64 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Correspondence comprising about 300 letters addressed to Banks, mainly in his capacity as President of the Royal Society.

Principal correspondents are Sir Charles Blagden, Jonas Dryander, James Mario Matra, Daniel Solander, James Lind, William Richardson, Erasmus Darwin, The Geological Society of London, W.H. Yate and Lord Monboddo. The letters largely relate to botanical matters but also concern personal matters. There is also a folder of letters with enclosures, c.1783, sent to Banks relating to mermaids. Other correspondents include William Bishop; J.F. Blumenbach; C.A. de Calonne; James Cross; George Cumberland; Mary Delany; J.A. De Luc; John Farey; Samuel Felton; Robert Graham; Matthew Gregson; C.F. Greville; J.W. Griffith; Charles Hatchett; T. Hennah; Charles Hutton; John Jeffries; Charles Lindgren; V. Lunardi; A. Mello; W.R. Notcutt; G. Rose; Dr Thomas Percy; G. Nicol; Henry Salt; William Sheffield; Charles Townley; Dawson Turner; H. Ussher; Luke Young; Thomas Velley and John Walsh. As well as seven letters written by Banks concerning botanical collections and addressed to Major William Price; Sir William Herschel and Dawson Turner, there is an extract from The Athenaeum, 26 December 1796, commenting on the publication of Banks' Endeavour journal.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Material selectively filmed at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1964 (AJCP Reel: M469). Original microfilm digitised as part of the AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

Fitzwilliam Museum. Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RB, England

For more information see Archives at the Fitzwilliam Museum (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

During the second half of the nineteenth century the vast archives of Sir Joseph Banks was broken up and dispersed among libraries throughout the world. In Australia, the State Library of New South Wales holds an important collection of his papers, including his journal on the Endeavour, while there is a smaller collection in the National Library of Australia.

In addition to the collection in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the AJCP filmed papers of Banks held in the British Library (M1192) (, the Natural History Museum (M2662) ( and the Kent Archives Office (M1901-M1903) ( It also filmed selections from the archives and collections of the Royal Society (M1927-40) (, which contain many references to Banks


Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Athenaeum, periodical; Banks, Sir Joseph; Bishop, William; Blagden, Sir Charles; Blumenbach, J.F; Botany; Burnett, James, Lord Monboddo; Calonne, C.A. de; Cook, James, Capt.; Cross, James; Cumberland, George; Darwin, Erasmus; Delany, Mary; Dryander, Jonas; Endeavour, HMS; Farey, John; Felton, Samuel; Geological Society of London; Graham, Robert; Gregson, Matthew; Greville, C.F.; Griffith, J.W.; Hatchett, Charles; Hennah, T.; Herschel, Sir John F.W.; Hutton, Charles; Jeffries, John; Lind, James; Lindgren, Charles; Luc, Jean Andre de; Lunardi, VinceNew Zealando; Matra, James M.; Mello, A.; Mermaids; Naturalists; Nicol, G.; Notcutt, W.R.; Percy, Thomas, Dr; Price, William, Major; Richardson, William; Rose, G.; Royal Society; Salt, Henry; Sheffield, William; Solander, Daniel C.; Townley, Charles; Turner, Dawson; Ussher, H.; Velley, Thomas; Walsh, John; Yate, W.H.; Young, Luke


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 23, p8.

Biographical / Historical

Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), Baronet, was born in London and educated at Harrow, Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford. He became interested in botany as a schoolboy. His father died in 1761 and, inheriting considerable wealth, he was able to devote his time to natural science. In 1766 he joined HMS Niger and collected rocks, plants and animals in Newfoundland and Labrador. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1766. In 1768 he led a small party of scientists and artists on HMS Endeavour on its voyage to the Pacific. Supported by James Cook, they amassed a huge collection of plants, insects, shells and implements and produced extensive drawings and notes during their travels to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia. On his return to England in 1771 he received a doctorate at Oxford University. In 1772 Banks led an expedition to the western islands of Scotland and Iceland.

In 1776 Banks bought a house at Soho Square in London where his library and collections were held and where he met and corresponded with scientists throughout Europe. Daniel Solander was his librarian, succeeded in time by Jonas Dryander and Robert Brown. In 1778 Banks became president of the Royal Society, an office he held for the rest of his life, and he was created a baronet in 1781. He was a member of numerous other learned societies and developed the royal gardens at Kew. The Government sought his advice on many subjects, including the colonisation of Australia, exploration, currency and botanic gardens. His collectors went to India, South Africa, Australia, West Africa and South America and great quantities of plants, specimens, seeds, drawings and notes were sent to his herbarium and Kew Gardens.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Letters from Sir Charles Blagden to Joseph Banks, 1773 - 1805

Written from London, Plymouth, Bath and Paris, the letters deal in particular with the affairs and publications of the Royal Society, of which Blagden was secretary from 1784 to 1797. They cover a wide range of subjects, including medicine and botany, and refer to correspondence and meetings with scientists throughout Europe. Among those mentioned are Daniel Solander, Jonas Dryander, Antoine Lavoisier, Joseph Priestley, Sir William Hamilton, Sir William Herschel, Henry Cavendish, Sir Nevil Maskelyne, Richard Kirwan, Sir George Chambers, Sir Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford), Claude Berthollet, Alexander Aubert, Benjamin Wilson, Pierre-Simon Laplace and Georges-Louis Leclerc (Comte du Buffon). (77 letters)

Series 2. Copies and drafts of letters and papers written by Joseph Banks, 1784 - 1815

10 items

Banks to William Herschel, n.d. (File 2.1)

Aurora Borealis

Banks to Major William Price, 31 March 1796 (File 2.2)

Curiosities collected on ships commanded by Bruny D'Entrecasteaux, including plants, birds, insects and snakes.

Banks to [William Price], 15 June 1798 (File 2.3)

Restitution of natural history objects collected by scientists who accompanied Comte de la Perouse to the Pacific.

Banks to [Samuel?] Bentham, 4 December 1786 (File 2.4)

Forwards seeds.

Review of The journal of Sir Joseph Banks during Captain Cook's first voyage in HMS Endeavour in 1768-71, edited by Sir Joseph Hooker, Athenaeum, 26 December 1896 (File 2.5)

pp. 908-9

Banks to Johann Merck (Hesse), 29 June 1784 (File 2.6)

Thanks for dissertation on fossil bones

Banks to Dawson Turner, 12 December 1812 (File 2.7)

Refers to Tupia, the Tahitian who was brought to England by Banks.

Banks to ?, 16 November 1815 (File 2.8)

Thanks for gift of tea.

Draft minutes of the trustees of the British Museum referring to the admittance of readers, 13 May 1801 (File 2.9a)

Draft report on valuable parts of the collection of the British Museum, n.d.

Draft report on valuable parts of the collection of the British Museum, n.d. (File 2.9b)

Series 3. Letters written to Joseph Banks, 1773 - 1822

53 items

William Bishop (Maidstone) to Banks, 8 February 1788 (File 3.1)

Flints found in Kent.

Johann F. Blumenbach (Gottingen) to Banks, 4 May 1796 (File 3.2)

Recommends Friedrich Hornemann; suggests he first spend some months in Gottingen working on natural history.

C.A. de Calonne (London) to Banks, 18 March 1789 (File 3.3)

A bust of Banks. (Includes reply by Banks.)

James Cross (Bristol) to Banks, 4 October 1789 (File 3.4)

His discovery of a new star.

George Cumberland (London) to Banks, 18 January 1787 (File 3.5)

His interest in studying antiques received from Naples and also a collection of prints.

Erasmus Darwin (Derby) to Banks, 1781 - 1782 (File 3.6)

Mary Delany (London) to Banks, 1785 - 1786 (File 3.7)

Recommends a gardener for the Dowager Duchess of Portland. (2 letters)

J.A. Deluc (Kew) to Banks, 22 July 1791 (File 3.8)

Requests loan of a journal.

Letters of Jonas Dryander to Banks, 1782 - 1802 (File 3.9)

Dryander, who had been a pupil of Carl Linnaeus, succeeded Daniel Solander as Banks's librarian in 1782. The letters were mostly written from Banks's house in Soho Square at times when Banks was out of London. They deal in particular with the library, the acquisition of books and drawings, subscriptions and catalogues. In addition, there are references to the receipt of letters, visitors to the house, and botanical and zoological matters. Individuals mentioned in the letters include Johann Fabricius, Charles Blagden, Joseph Planta, Alexander Dalrymple, Charles Greville, Henry Cavendish and Edward Gray.

John Farey (Woburn) to Banks, 11 February 1802 (File 3.1)

Examination of soils.

Samuel Felton (London) to Banks, 22 March 1804 (File 3.11)

Requests an inscription on the cabinet he has donated.

James Laird (Geological Society) to Banks, March 1809 (File 3.12)

A rift between the Geological Society and the Royal Society; attaches a resolution of the Geological Society rejecting the plan of Charles Greville for the Society to merge with the Royal Society. (2 letters)

G.B. Greenough to Banks, 1809 - 1810 (File 3.13)

Relations between the Royal Society and the Geological Society. (2 letters)

Robert Graham (Skaill) to Banks, 12 November 1790 (File 3.14)

Sends piece of an ancient urn.

Green (Cambridge) to Banks, 14 April 1776 (File 3.15)

Sends botanical specimens collected in the neighbourhood of Cambridge.

Matthew Gregson (Liverpool) to Banks, 13 August 1791 (File 3.16)

Offers to sell 800 drawings, including birds and shells by Sarah Stone and others under the direction of Ashton Lever.

Recommendation, signed by seven members, that Matthew Gregson be admitted as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, May 1822 (File 3.17)

Charles F. Greville (Bath) to Banks, 27 October 1776 (File 3.18)

Forwards a box of potatoes, possibly a rare species; he is to be sworn in as mayor of Warwick.

J.W. Griffith (Abergele) to Banks, 12 July 1802 (File 3.19)

Queries whether periwinkle is only the first state of a small species of lobster.

Charles Hatchett (London) to Banks, 1803 - 1804 (File 3.2)

Metals and minerals; papers of Smithson Tennant. (2 letters)

T. Hennah (St Austell) to Banks, 18 March 1782 (File 3.21)

Collection of minerals.

Charles Hutton to Banks and Daniel Solander, 19 March 1774 (File 3.22)

Enquires about a master of a vessel from Topsham or Exeter.

J. Jeffries (Paris) to Banks, 7 January 1785 (File 3.23)

Account of ballooning near north coast of France.

James Lind (Edinburgh, Windsor, Cape Town) to Banks, 1775 - 1795 (File 3.24)

Visit to Cape Town (1779); plan to settle convicts on the north-west coast of America; insanity; reports on the health of King George III (1788); William Herschel; Tiberius Cavallo; drawings of elephants by Thomas Sandby; blue lights; presents from the Emperor of China. (33 letters)

Charles Lindegren (London) to Banks, 20 June 1782 (File 3.25)

Collection of Daniel Solander.

Vincent Lunardi to Banks, 1787 (File 3.26)

Discovery of a method of saving people from drowning; meeting. (3 letters)

James Matra (Constantinople) to Banks, 17 August 1779 (File 3.27)

Congratulations on his marriage; collection of plants of Abbe Sistius (?); difficulties of transplanting plants to England; the Sultan is generally shut up in his seraglio; many houses burnt down by mobs; hopes that Capt. J. Cook is not getting himself and his followers into a 'scrape'.

James Matra (Gibraltar) to Banks, 24 September 1791 (File 3.28)

Embarking on his last trip to Tangier; sends vocabulary of the Shillah language, some words translated into Arabic; hopes of retirement.

Arnold Mello (London) to banks, 16 July 1776 (File 3.29)

Meeting with Peter the Wild Man, found in a forest near Hanover; sends particulars. (3pp.)

Letters and enclosures sent to Banks relating to mermaids, c. 1783-1809 (File 3.3)

The correspondents include Edmund Hussey, William Munro, Duncan Campbell and James Glen.

W.R. Notcutt (Bristol) to Banks, 3 March 1779 (File 3.31)

Sends specimens of strontium sulphate; requests specimens of coal from Botany Bay.

Dr Pearce (London) to Banks, 4 February 1791 (File 3.32)

Specimens of ore from Cornwall.

George Rose to Spencer Percival, 26 February 1812 (File 3.33)

Enclosure from Banks concerning request of Mr Broad for a grant to destroy vermin.

J. Morrison (Mint Office) to [Banks?], 16 November 1812 (File 3.34)

Allowance to Matthews authorised by Spencer Percival for duties performed at the Mint.

Bishop Thomas Percy (Dromore, Ireland) to Banks, 1783 - 1784 (File 3.35)

Fossil deer bones found on his estate. (3 letters)

James Burnett (Edinburgh) to Banks, 16 November 1780 (File 3.36)

Evolution of animals and insects.

James Burnett (Edinburgh) to Banks, 30 January 1783 (File 3.37)

Peter the Wild Man; question of his surviving on leaves and bark; refers to natives of New Caledonia eating bark of certain trees.

George Nicols (London) to Banks, 22 September 1788 (File 3.38)

Difficulties in transmitting a letter to King George III; printing of statutes [of Royal Society].

William (?) Purkis (Brentford) to Banks, 14 October 1798 (File 3.4)

Presentation of colours of the Brentford Armed Association.

William Richardson (Armagh) to Banks, 1803 - 1805 (File 3.41)

Submits papers for publication; geological specimens and drawings; books. (6 letters)

[Jean?] Royer (London) to Banks, c. 1 September 1803 (File 3.42)

Correspondence with Robert Brown about a collection of birds, animals and plants captured from a French ship by a privateer.

Henry Salt (Cairo) to Hamilton, 10 June 1818 (File 3.43)

Egyptian antiquities. (extract)

William Sheffield to Banks, 5 February 1774 (File 3.44)

Refers to examination by Banks of coasts of Glamorgan and Pembroke; collecting of shells.

Daniel Solander to Banks, 1773 - 1781 (File 3.45)

General news; capture of a whale; letter from Alexander Dalrymple to John Hawkesworth; Lord Sandwich; Charles Blagden; John Hunter; dissection of electric eels.

Charles Townley to Banks, 18 June (?) (File 3.46)

Proposal that papers of Padre Antonio about Mount Vesuvius be placed in the British Museum.

Dawson Turner (Yarmouth) to Banks, 3 February 1803 (File 3.47)

Sends geese in gratitude to his admission to Society of Antiquaries: Banks's health: James Smith and value as Flora Britannica.

Walter H. Yate (London) to Banks, 3rd Nov (?) (File 3.48)

Offers published catalogue of his museum.

Walter H. Yate to the Gentlemen, Clergy and Freeholders of the County of Gloucester, 17 June 1802 (File 3.49)

Duties of parliamentary representatives. (printed)

Walter H. Yate to Banks, 18 October 1802 (File 3.4)

Seeks support in publishing a history of Gloucestershire by Rev. T.D. Fasbrooke.

H. Ussher to Banks, 28 December 1785 (File 3.41)

Thanks for astronomical communications; William Herschel; his election to the Royal Society.

Luke Young (Wooller) to Banks, 15 June 1802 (File 3.42)

Sends sketches.

Thomas Velley (Bath) to Banks, 24 September 1790 (File 3.43)

Roman antiquities in Bath.

John Walsh (London) to Banks, 15 January 1774 (File 3.44)

Returns Labrador stone; description (3pp.) of stone attached.