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To scrutinize the whole of Nature: The Royal Society and its fellows 1660-1730

Sloane's Jamaica

A castor oil plant, as depicted in: Hans Sloane. 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. of the last of those islands; to which is prefix'd an introduction, wherein is an account of the inhabitants, air, waters, diseases, trade, &c. of that place, with some relations concerning the neighbouring continent, and islands of America. London: Printed by B.M. for the author, 1707-1725 [Rare Books Collection FOL. QH109.H5S9]A castor oil plant, as depicted in: Hans Sloane. 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. of the last of those islands; to which is prefix'd an introduction, wherein is an account of the inhabitants, air, waters, diseases, trade, &c. of that place, with some relations concerning the neighbouring continent, and islands of America. London: Printed by B.M. for the author, 1707-1725 [Rare Books Collection FOL. QH109.H5S9]The physician and botanist Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) served as president of the Royal Society for fourteen years from 1727 and had earlier been responsible for the publication of Philosophical transactions in his capacity as the Society’s secretary between 1695 and 1713.

As a young man Sloane had spent fifteen months in Jamaica as the personal physician to the governor of the island, the Duke of Albemarle and while there had collected hundreds of botanical specimens.

After his return to London in 1689 Sloane gave accounts of several of them in Philosophical transactions and in 1696 published descriptions of them in Catalogus plantarum quae in insula Jamaica sponte proveniunt, a work which the botanist John Ray (see case 8) called ‘a great treasure’.

However, the work that ensured Sloane's scholarly reputation was A voyage to the islands, the first volume of which was published in 1707 and the second in 1725.

In these two lavishly illustrated volumes Sloane gave a detailed account of the flora of Jamaica, particularly its medicinal plants, its fauna, its climate, its agriculture, its trade links and the lives and customs of its inhabitants, both slaves and planters.

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