Botanical collecting in 18th-century London

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The correspondence exchanged between Captain John Blake, John Bradby Blake, and their associates, offers a valuable insight into the sociable world of Enlightenment botany. By considering these sources alongside the records pertaining to other contemporary scholars of botany, this paper examines the composition of the community of plant collectors and botanical scholars with whom father and son were interacting in the 1760s and 1770s. The documents also reveal the ways in which botanical knowledge circulated among the members of these communities. Amateur botany, it turns out, was deeply linked to gardening and to the emerging trade in horticultural plants, yet the contributions made by gardeners and nurserymen have been largely overlooked. In sum, the Blake collection at Oak Spring helps to answer larger questions about the nature of Enlightenment sociability, about diversity within botanical networks, and about the ways in which that social diversity affected botanical collecting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-297
JournalCurtis's Botanical Magazine
Issue number4
Early online date2 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • History of Botany
  • Eighteenth century history
  • East India Company
  • British History
  • Garden History
  • Horitculture
  • John Bradby Blake
  • Canton


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