Earliest European view of Everest found in Kew Archives
23 February 2011
A sketch from the archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been identified as being one of the first recorded views of Mount Everest by a European. The sketch, by Sir Joseph Hooker, who was Director of Kew between 1865 and 1885, was drawn in situ in c.1848. It is currently on display in The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art until 1 June 2011.
Despite being part of the Kew collection for many years, it was only identified at the end of last year, and is a hugely exciting find. It was discovered by a documentary maker who was using the Kew archives to conduct research on Sir Joseph Hooker.
According to current research, there are indications that suggest this illustration is the earliest representation of Mount Everest by a European. Whilst it is possible earlier illustrations or sketches may exist, attempts by Kew’s illustration team to locate anything have been fruitless.
Professor Stephen Hopper, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, says “We have a vast collection of illustrations here at Kew and curation is an ongoing job. It is always wonderful when we turn up a hidden gem of such historical importance. To our knowledge there are no other earlier representations of Everest by a European, in which case, this discovery could be one of the most important findings in Kew’s Archive.”
The Kew archives also hold a watercolour based on the Hooker sketch by Walter Hood-Fitch (1817-1892), which was produced two years later in c.1850.
Notes to Editors
Kew’s Library, Art and Archives
The collection of letters, books, maps, journals, botanical art and illustrations, manuscripts and photographs is one of the premier and largest sources of botanical information in the world. They are working collections, used by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s staff and visiting scientists, historians and art historians for research. Some items extend beyond Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s 250 year history, with the oldest items in the Library being printed herbals, or plant books, dating from the 15th century and the early years of printing.
The curators of the Library, Art and Archives are responsible for one of the largest collections of botanical art, both prints and original arts works in various media, in the world. The collection totals some 200,000 items. It ranges in date from the great masters of botanical illustration, such as GD Ehret, PJ Redouté and the Bauer brothers in the 18th century through to Walter Hood Fitch and Marianne North in the 19th century. A small fraction of these art works is on display in The Shirley Sherwood Gallery, which opened its doors to the public on 19 April 2008. The Marianne North Gallery, which is joined to The Shirley Sherwood Gallery by a linking gallery, is exclusively dedicated to the art of the intrepid, globe-trotting Victorian artist. The result of her epic journeys to far-flung corners of the world can be seen in the gallery named after her.
For more information on The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art please go to:
For more information on the Marianne North Gallery please go to:
For more information on Sir Joseph Hooker, please go to: http://www.kew.org/heritage/people/hooker_j.html
For more information please contact the RBG Kew Press Office on 020 8332 5607 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Images are available to download here. Please contact the press office for the username and password.
- Opening hours: 9.30am – 4.15pm until 7 February 2011
- 9.30am – 5.30pm 8 February until 28 March 2011
- Last entry to the Gardens, the Glasshouses, Galleries and the Xstrata Treetop Walkway is 30 minutes before closing
- Admission: Adults £13.90, Concessions £11.90, free for children under 17 (with an adult)
- Visitor information: 020 8332 5655 or email@example.com
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction. Its landscaped 132 hectares and RBG Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract nearly 2 million visitors every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. RBG Kew and its partners have collected and conserved seed from 10% of the world's wild flowering plant species (c.30, 000 species). The aim is to conserve 25% by 2020, and its enormous potential for future conservation can only be fulfilled with the support of the public and other funders.
Kew needs to raise significant funds both in the UK and overseas. Members of the public can support the work of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership by getting involved with the ‘Adopt a Seed, Save a Species' campaign. For £25 an individual can adopt a seed or for £1000 anyone can save an entire species. www.kew.org/adoptaseed.
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew