Banks' Florilegium has been called the largest fine art printing project of the 20th century. It is the first complete publication in color of the 734 folio size copperplate engravings of newly discovered plants collected by Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander while they accompanied Captain James Cook on his voyage around the world between 1768 and 1771. Banks and Solander collected plants in Madeira, Brazil, Tierra del Fuego, the Society Islands, New Zealand, Australia and Java.
Banks' and Solander's specimens were studied aboard the HMS Endeavour by the artist Sydney Parkinson. Parkinson drew each specimen and made notes on their color, and for some species completed watercolor illustrations. When the Endeavour returned to London Banks hired artists Frederick Polydore Nodder, John Frederick Miller, James Miller, John Cleverly and Thomas Burgis to create watercolors of all of Parkinson's drawings. Between 1771 and 1784 Banks hired 18 engravers to create the copperplate engravings from the 743 completed watercolors with the purpose of eventually publishing an edition. Because Banks was engaged in many other projects, the Florilegium was not printed in Banks' lifetime, and he bequeathed the plates to the British Museum, where they were preserved. Between 1900 and 1905 James Britten and the British Museum issued prints of 315 of the plant engravings in black ink, under the title Illustrations of Australian Plants. Others were included in black and white in the 1973 book Captain Cook's Florilegium (Wikipedia). However, the complete series of plates in Banks' Florilegium was never issued in color until the above edition.
Limited to only 100 numbered sets, the sets were issued in 101 cloth-backed portfolios housed in 35 large folio custom-made solander boxes (including Supplement). The complete Banks’ Florilegium contains 738 engraved plates printed in color by hand using a 17th century printing technique called à la poupée, in which each color was applied directly to the copperplate by hand, and some plates were retouched with watercolor afterwards. The technique derives from a method developed by Johannes Tayler in the 17th century and revived by Pierre-Joseph Redouté in the early 19th century. The involved process of inking with a rolled up "dolly" of cotton tarlatan, printing, and cleaning the plates can take upwards of three hours for each impression.