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A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica with the Natural History…

This first edition, folio engraving is from Sir Hans Sloane’s A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica, with the Natural History of the Herbs and Trees, Four-footed Beasts, Fishes, Birds, Insects, Reptiles, &c. The work was published between 1707 and 1725 in London by Benjamin Motte for the Author.

This was an important work that contained “the earliest representations of the flora and fauna of Jamaica and neighbouring islands” (Hunt) It is considered “a fundamental work for West Indian botany.” (Great Flower Books)

“Sloane went to Jamaica in 1687 as physician to the Duke of Albermarle, the newly appointed governor. Before his departure he had compiled a list of animal and plant specimens required by friends such as the English naturalist John Ray (1627-1705). During the fifteen months he was there he also assembled for himself a fine collection of plants, insects, shells, fish and other specimens…When he returned to London, Sloane tried to bring back live animals from Jamaica. Sadly the ‘guana’ (lizard) fell overboard, the crocodile died, and a yellow snake escaped and was shot. But the descriptions and illustrations in his book provide us with important information about Jamaican vertebrates. He describes, for example, how the snakes were useful for destroying the black rats that had arrived on European ships and ate the sugar cane. Later when the snakes couldn’t keep pace with the rats, Indian mongoose were imported but they were so effective that the snakes faced starvation. The mongoose also ate many lizards that were native to the islands. Sloane described and illustrated one of these, the great galliwasp, which later became extinct.” (K. Sloan (ed.), Enlightenment. Discovering the (London, The British Museum Press, 2003)

Sloane collected over 800 dried specimens used to create this work. Everhard Kickius drew the initial illustrations. The engravings (which are on fold out or double paged sheets) were mostly completed by Michael Vander Gucht or John Savage.

Of the new species Sloane gathered was cacao. The natives mixed it purely with water, however to make it more palatable, Sloane added milk and sugar. “Initially his new chocolate recipe was used for medicinal purposes, but soon ‘Sir Hans Sloane’s Milk Chocolate’ was being sold as probably the first brand-name milk chocolate, some 80 years before Cadbury’s adopted the recipe to produce their own cocoa and drinking chocolate.” (Bonhams)

Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) was a physician, scientist, botanist, and prolific collector. Sloane arrived in the West Indies in 1687 and served as physician to the Governor of Jamaica, the Duke of Albemarle.

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