To celebrate the bicentenary of African explorer David Livingstone, the Archives team reveal his connection to Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and how you can see more of his letters online.
Today, 19th March 2013, marks the 200th Birthday of David Livingstone (1813-1873), noted explorer of Africa, national hero, and friend to Kew Gardens!
Livingstone and Kew
Livingstone wrote letters and sent plants and seeds to Kew during his journeys across Africa. Below is an excerpt from a list written by Livingstone upon his return to England in 1857, describing various edible plants he encountered on his expedition.
Directors' Correspondence Vol 59, folio 190
“III. Koma a round hard rinded fruit. When the seeds taken out it is the most fashionable snuff box the Makololo have. Before being dried some of it is edible. I never tasted it.”
From 1858 to 1864, Livingstone, along with Dr John Kirk, travelled along the Zambezi River, exploring its tributaries and identifying natural resources. During this expedition, both Kirk and Livingstone corresponded with Kew, sending plants to be identified, sketch maps of Lakes along the river, meteorological observations and even tools made from plants to be displayed in Kew’s Museum. These are all still held as part of Kew’s Archive, Herbarium and Economic Botany Collections.
Reading more of Livingstone's letters
Anyone can come and visit our Reading Room to view our Livingstone letters. You can also now access them from home via Livingstone Online , an international project collecting together images and transcriptions of Livingstone’s manuscripts from many different institutions , including the National Library of Scotland, the British Library, the School of Oriental and African Studies Library, and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
- Find out about Kew's Directors' Correspondence Digitisation Project
- Contact the Archives team at email@example.com
- Get involved with Livingstone Bicentenary events
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