Some of the Joseph Hooker material held in Kew collection

Project scope

Find out about the scope and content of the Joseph Dalton Hooker Correspondence Project.

About the project

The Joseph Hooker Correspondence (JHC) project is making available, online, the personal and scientific correspondence of Joseph Hooker, an important but often overlooked 19th century botanist and explorer. The formation of this online repository, comprised largely of previously unpublished archive material, is intended to facilitate academic research in such fields as botany and other natural sciences, horticulture, British imperialism, garden history, the history of science and the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Kew also hopes to bring knowledge of Joseph Hooker to a wider audience and to extend awareness of the extent and significance of his work.

The JHC project was conceived by staff of The University of Sussex and Kew's Library, Art and Archive directorate. In partnership, Kew and University of Sussex's Centre for World Environmental History produced digital images and full transcriptions of Hooker's Indian letters. Staff at Kew are continuing the project with the digitisation of further series of Hooker's correspondence which are being added to the website. In its current incarnation the site should be considered a pilot and the design and layout will undergo considerable redesign during the course of the project's development. This will include improvements to the search functionality.

The JHC project has been extended beyond the initial digitisation of the Indian correspondence thanks to funding from the Stevenson Family's Charitable Trust and will now proceed to digitise, and publish online, further Joseph Hooker letters held in the archive at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and other institutions. The project funding also makes provision for important conservation work to be carried out on the correspondence, ensuring these historic letters, chronicling Joseph Hooker's life, work and achievements will be safely preserved, both digitally and on paper in the Kew archive, for the future enjoyment and enlightenment of scholars and the public.


Joseph Hooker letters in the Kew Archive

Kew's Joseph Hooker collections are some of the most frequently consulted documents in Kew's archive collection and have long been a priority for conservation and digitisation.

They include letters from Hooker's time as Director of the Gardens but also correspondence pre- and post-dating his Directorship. The bulk of Joseph Hooker's letters in the archive are classified as 'personal papers' . As well as letters to family members the personal papers section covers 'private' letters between Hooker and many eminent scientists, including Charles Darwin, and cover a broad range of scientific subjects. By and large they do not relate to the matters of administration carried out by Hooker in his capacity as Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Copies were, perhaps surprisingly, not routinely made of the official correspondence sent out by Hooker or the Director's office, at least no such copies survive. There is of course still much discussion of Kew within Hooker's letters, especially those to his father, Sir William Jackson Hooker, who preceded him as director of Kew and to his son in law Sir William Thiselton-Dyer who was his successor.

The official papers relating to the institutional history of Kew contain an extensive amount of material relating to Joseph Hooker and the pivotal role he played in expanding and defining the role of Kew as a public institution. This material is most often reports, memorandums and press cuttings. It does also contain inward and outward correspondence, but as this part of the collection is not generally as rich in correspondence from Hooker as the personal papers, it is not one of the first priorities for inclusion in the correspondence project.

A full list of the volumes contained in the Joseph Hooker personal papers collection, with information on their provenance, can be found in this

 

For further information about Kew's archive holdings you can consult the online catalogue.


The letters online

Each letter featured on the website has an asset page which comprises:

  1. Images of each page of the letter
  2. Metadata which records the letter date, recipient, originating address etc.
  3. A fully searchable summary of the contents of the letter.
  4. A transcription of the letter (available as a document download).

Care has been taken to ensure that the letters are transcribed accurately but some of the early work still needs to be corrected to comply with the project's current standards. We welcome any information about mistakes and corrections. Corrections will be made as part of the next website update and there may be some delay before they appear. If you would like to know more about the transcription standards you can download the project's

 

The letters held in the archive are sometimes copies rather than Joseph Hooker's original version written in his own hand. In the case of the Indian correspondence series, copies are in the form of letters written out by Hooker's mother or one of his sisters. Either the copy or the original would then have been circulated amongst Hooker's friends and relations whilst the other was retained by his immediate family. Where the only version of a letter held in the Kew archive is a copy, the copy will be digitised for inclusion in the project. If an original version ie written and signed by Hooker himself is later found it will be added to the database.

The current mandate of the JHC project is to digitise only letters from Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. The decision has been taken to initially include only letters authored by Hooker, meaning the website does not feature letters which he received - with the occasional exception of those he enclosed with his own correspondence. As he held a prominent public position as Director of Kew for 20 years (1865-1885) Hooker's incoming correspondence is too extensive to include in the project at this stage. A pre-existing digitisation project at Kew - the Directors' Correspondence Project - has digitised some of this material and it is hosted online at Jstor Global Plants. The Directors' Correspondence (DC) comprises official letters to all the Directors of Kew up to the 1920s, including Joseph Hooker. We may integrate the relevant incoming DC material with the JHC project at a later date.

In the future, the JHC project also hopes to collaborate with other projects and institutions both in the UK and abroad so as to bring together as much of Hooker's correspondence as possible within one online database. We are already indebted to the staff of the Wallace Correspondence Project, based at the Natural History Museum London, for their generous advice and assistance with the early stages of the JHC project


A Broad JHC Project Outline

Project phase 1 (2011-2012):

  • digitisation of Joseph Hooker's Indian letters by Kew
  • pilot programme for transcription of Indian letters by University of Sussex 

Project phase 2 (2013-2015):

  • appointment of a dedicated project officer based at Kew for a period of two years
  • completion of outstanding transcription required for Indian letters
  • creation of website to host letters online
  • identification and digitisation of further Joseph Hooker correspondence held at Kew
  • conservation of letters as required in preparation for digitisation and also to repair damage
  • instigation of volunteer programme to assist with transcribing letters

Projected phase 3 ( 2015-2017):

  • continued digitisation of Kew's Joseph Hooker holdings
  • extension of project to include material held in other repositories in the UK and abroad
  • preparations to mark the 2017 bicentenary of Hooker's birth

Copyright

Copyright for all letters written by Joseph Hooker lies with his descendants. Those descendants that are known to Kew have been informed of the JHC project and have given their permission for the letters to be published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. We would be glad to hear from any relations of Joseph Hooker who have not previously been contacted. The digitised images are under copyright of Kew and should not be reproduced without permission. If you would like to get in contact about copyright or with reproduction queries please email the Project Officer.