Drawings of a Collection of East Indian Plants

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection consists of drawings from Roxburgh's collection of East Indian plants. These were sent by Nathaniel Wallis (or Wallich) to Robert Wight for the Icones plantarum Indiae orientalis 1840-1853.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Roxburgh was born at Underwood, Craigie, in Ayrshire, on 3 June 1751. He was educated at the village school and then studied botany at Edinburgh University. In 1766 he became a surgeon's mate on a vessel of the East India Company and made several voyages to India before being appointed as an Assistant Surgeon in Chennai (then known as Madras), working in the General Hospital in the city. He became a full Surgeon in 1780 and was stationed in Samulcotta in 1781. There he began cultivating plants and making a large botanical collection which he sketched and made notes on their local use. Roxburgh became the East India Company's botanist in Karnataka. In 1791 he began sending plants back to Britain and by 1794 nearly five hundred had been sent. Many of these were selected by Sir Joseph Banks for the richly illustrated volume Plants of the Coast of the Coromandel 1795. In 1793, Roxburgh became Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden. In 1813 his health failed him and he retired to Capetown, South Africa, and then to St. Helena, and finally to England. William Roxburgh died in Edinburgh on 18 February 1815.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Note

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.18. Robinson-Sheares. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1909.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Accruals

Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show these other references to Roxburgh related material in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): letters to Dr. E. Smith, Cape of Good Hope, 1799, and to Dr. Wallich at Serampore, at La.II.643/52; and, a portrait of Roxburgh, at La.II.643/52/5. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: description of swietenia febrifugia, McGill University, Osler Library, see Union list of MSS in Canadian repositories, suppl 1977-78; correspondence and papers, British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections, Ref. MSS Eur D 49-69 809, E 64-67, F 18 23-25; Home misc series; letters (49) to Sir Joseph Banks, 1779-1810, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Add MSS 33977-81, see WR Dawson, The Banks letters, 1958, and correspondence with Thomas Hardwicke, 1797-1811, Ref. Add MS 9869; correspondence and papers, Natural History Museum, see HMC MS papers of British scientists 1600-1940, 1982; correspondence and papers, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Library and Archives, NRA 25004 Royal Botanic Garden; catalogue of Indian plants, 1792, Royal Botanic Garden, see Bridson, Natural history MS resources 1980; meteorological diary, 1779, Royal Society; Flora Indica, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine, Ref. MSS. 4294-4295; description of swietenia febrifugia, 1792, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Ref. Roxburgh NRA 16015 Coll of Physicians; description of swietenia febrifugia, circa 1793, Royal College of Physicians of London, Ref. MS 660; letters to Francis Buchanan, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD161 NRA 8142 Buchanan; and, letters (18) to Sir James Smith, 1791-1815, Linnean Society of London, Ref. Smith papers NRA 9516 Linnean Society.