Kew Illustrations, Library and Archives


The art collection holds a small selection of drawings of plants made by Matilda Smith. We assume the drawings were worked up from pressed plant specimens, a standard technique of botanical illustration.

Illustrations of plants collected on the HMS Challenger; original drawings in pencil, by Matilda Smith for plates appearing in Hemsley, W.B., Report of the scientific results of the voyage of HMS Challenger, Botany, vol. 1, 1885:

  • Atriplex plebeja, original drawing for plate XXIX
  • Cereus insularis, original drawing for plate XIV
  • Phylica nitida, original drawing for plate XXV
  • Sabal palmetto, [published as Sabal blackburniana], illustration of the entire plant, original drawing for plate VI
  • Sabal palmetto, detail, original drawing for plate VII
  • Sabal palmetto, leaf, original drawing for plate VIII
  • Sabal palmetto, fruit, original drawing for plate IX
  • Scirpus sulcatus, original drawing for plate XXXI
  • Scirpus thouarsianus var. pallescens, original drawing for plate XXXIII

Please seek permission to use these images from Kew’s Archives department. They are not covered by the Open Government Licence agreement.


Kew’s library holds:

  • the botanical component of the Report on the scientific results of the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76 (volumes 1 & 2, 1885-6)
  • the Narrative of the cruise of H. M. S. Challenger with a general account of the scientific results of the expedition (2 volumes, 1885)
  • A summary of the scientific results obtained at the sounding, dredging and trawling stations of H.M.S. Challenger (1 volume, 1895).

Full details can be obtained from the online library catalogue.


The personal papers of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (Director of the Kew Gardens from 1865-1885) are held in the archive. The Challenger documents held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew comprise around 300 sheets of paper, dating from 1872 to 1891, the majority of which is correspondence. There are also printed and handwritten, reports, minutes & notes concerning: the arrangement of the expedition by the ‘Circumnavigation Committee’, and the collation, publication and distribution of the resultant collections and findings.

The letters are largely addressed to Joseph Hooker and are authored by various members of the expedition, including its instigator Charles Wyville-Thomson, as well as those involved with organising or supporting the endeavour. Many of them concern botanical specimens from the expedition being sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew through the Hydrographic Office or other channels. There are some letters and draft letters authored by Joseph Hooker including one to Wyville-Thomson.

The full list of correspondents represented is as follows: Archer, Berkeley, Christian, Copeland, Dickie, Evans, Günther, Gwyn-Jeffreys, Hardy, Hemsley, Huxley, Knight, Law, Moseley, Anabel Moseley, Murray, Parker, O’Meara, Richards, W.H. Smith, Sorby Thiselton-Dyer and Wyville-Thomson.

Other notable documents include:

  • a series of letters from expedition naturalist Henry Nottidge Moseley written to Hooker from the HMS Challenger,
  • a printed account of the climate in the region of Kerguelen written by Captain George Nares and annotated by Hooker
  • further information relating to the botanical collections including lists of specimens.

All of these documents have been scanned and copies can be supplied by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for a small fee or viewed freely in the reading room.

Material authored by Joseph Hooker will be made available online in due course as part of the Joseph Hooker Correspondence Project along with letters regarding other key aspects of Hooker’s scientific career which are already available.