A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas in His Majesty’s Ship, the Endeavour. Faithfully Transcribed from the Papers of the Late Sydney Parkinson, Draughtsman to Joseph Banks, Esq. on his Late Expedition, with Dr. Solander, Round the World. Embellished with Views and Designs, Delineated by the Author and Engraved by Capital Artists. London: Printed for Stanfield Parkinson, the Editor, and sold by Messrs Richardson and Urquhart, at the Royal Exchange [and others] 1773. Adelaide: Libraries Board of South Australia, 1972, Australiana Facsimile Editions No. A34, reproduced from a copy of the 1773 first edition held by the State Library of South Australia, folio (34.8 x 28.5 cm), xxiii + 212 pages, engraved frontispiece [by James Newton], Contents, Editor’s Preface, Text, Tables, Vocabulary lists, Map, 27 b&w engraved Plates and Errata, all printed on large paper, bound in red cloth, gilt Title lettering on spine.
Condition: As new, unmarked, no foxing.
Sydney Parkinson (c.1745-1771), born in Edinburgh to a Quaker brewer, was apprenticed to a wool draper but his drawing skills took him in 1767 to London where his outstanding work for the naturalist Joseph Banks (later Sir Joseph Banks) led to Parkinson’s appointment as botanical draughtsman on James Cook’s voyage to the south seas in the Endeavour. On the death in Tahiti of the expedition’s topographical draughtsman, Alexander Buchan, Parkinson ably assumed his late colleague’s duties, eventually making more than 1,300 drawings and sketches. Parkinson also compiled native vocabularies in Tahiti and New Holland. At Batavia, on the Endeavour’s homeward voyage, Parkinson and others of the ship’s crew contracted dysentery, an affliction causing Parkinson’s death at sea on 26 January 1771.
Later in 1771, when the Endeavour had returned to England, Banks paid out Sydney’s brother, Stanfield Parkinson (the Editor of the present volume) a sum on money for Sydney’s outstanding salary and his drawings and papers. Stanfield was subsequently lent Sydney’s papers, but broke an agreement by transcribing them for publication. An injunction restraining Standfield required him to withhold publication until the voyage’s official account, edited by John Hawkesworth, appeared. Hawkesworth made extensive use of Sydney Parkinson’s drawings and papers, without acknowledgment. A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, edited by Stanfield, came out in 1773 and a second, enlarged edition was published in 1784. Sydney Parkinson was the first European botanical, topographical and landscape artist to land on Australian soil and to depict Aborigines by observing them. Of the 18 volumes of his drawings held at the British Museum, eight—comprising 243 drawings—portray Australian plants. Three volumes contain zoological subjects, some relating to Australia.
Despite the efforts of Joseph Banks in supervising 18 engravers working for 13 years on Parkinson’s drawings, his desire to see the botanical artist’s drawings published remained unrealised; Banks’s plates were bequeathed to the British Museum, but only selections were published, in 1900-1905 and in 1974. Alecto Historical Editions in association with the British Museum (Natural History) published Banks’ Florilegium: a publication in thirty-four parts of seven hundred and thirty-eight copperplate engravings of plants collected on Captain James Cook’s first voyage round the world in H.M.S. Endeavour, 1768-1771, with five supplementary plates (1980-1990). This superb work, the first complete edition of the engravings after Sydney Parkinson’s magnificent drawings, was later digitised by the Natural History Museum. Alecto’s complete set was published in colour in 35 parts with all plates and text in 35 Solander boxes. The resulting Florilegium has been described as a supreme example of 18th century European civilisation. A set was acquired by the State Library of New South Wales.
Very few portraits of Sydney Parkinson are known, one them a small oil painting and another the engraved frontispiece to A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas in His Majesty’s Ship, the Endeavour. In 1986 Sydney Parkinson was memorialised by Australia Post with the issuing of a postage stamp bearing his image.
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