Images. Visualising the natural world:
Sloane’s albums of natural history drawings

Project team

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This rearch concerns the textual and visual cultures of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century British natural history.

Using Hans Sloane’s collection of drawings, preserved at the British Museum, Natural History Museum and British Library, this project will examine the way people perceived, described and depicted the natural world during the period.

The project covers several forms in which specimen, text and image intersected, such as herbaria, drawings, printed books, letters, scientific and literary periodicals.

This PhD is one of three concerning Hans Sloane to have been given funding by the AHRC under its Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme. These PhDs, under the general rubric Reconnecting Hans Sloane: texts, images, objects, are a collaboration between the institutions which hold Sloane’s collection, the British Museum, Natural History Museum, and British Library, and the institutions co-supervising the doctoral theses, King’s College London and Queen Mary University London.

The other two PhDs are:

  • Texts. Collecting and correspondence: Sloane’s papers and scientific networks
    Student: Alice Marples
    Supervisors: Anne Goldgar (Reader in History, King’s College London) and Arnold Hunt (Curator of Modern Historical Manuscripts, British Library)
  • Objects.Putting nature in a box: Sloane’s vegetable substances
    Student: Victoria Pickering
    Supervisors: Miles Ogborn (Professor of Geography, Queen Mary University London) and Charlie Jarvis (Botanist, Natural History Museum)

Hans Sloane’s collection is of incomparable importance for the study of the history of medicine, science, correspondence networks, colonialism, trade, museums, and libraries. However, because it became one of the founding collections of the British Museum, and then after their foundation, the Natural History Museum and British Library as well, it has been difficult to undertake research on it. This is particularly true in the case of the drawings, which are split across the three institutions. This reseach aims to assess the significance of Sloane’s visual scientific practices in their scientific and cultural context.

Concrete outcomes will include:

  • Finding aid for the drawings
  • Two annotated catalogues, the first the current BL Additional Manuscripts catalogue (where the drawing albums are listed) and the second Sloane’s original Miniatura catalogue
  • Enriched catalogue entries for many drawings on the British Museum collection online database

Further information

Extended information on the larger Reconstructing Sloane project, of which the three linked PhDs form a part:


A frog, anonymous artist, 1548. Pen and brown ink, watercolour and bodycolour