One of the most important botanical reference sources in the world, Library, Art & Archives contains several million items, including books, botanical illustrations, photographs, letters and manuscripts, periodicals, biographies and maps.
Find out more about Kew's Library, Art and Archives
During the 160 years of the library's history, material has been acquired by gift, purchase and exchange. Over 90 languages are represented, making the library a global resource for plant science, research and conservation.
Up until the early 19th century, plants being sent back to England would often die on long sea voyages, from exposure to salt water and lack of light and fresh water. They frequently languished below deck amongst other cargo on ships headed back to England, untended by crew who resented the space the plants took up. Things improved with Nathanial Bagshaw Ward’s creation of the ‘Wardian case'. The new glass cases could be kept on deck allowing the plants to receive sunlight.
Kew holds one of the world's greatest collections of botanical art, with more than 200,000 items dating back to the days before photography could be used for the study of plants. This gallery is the first to be dedicated to botanical art.
Marianne North was a remarkable Victorian artist with a great eye for botanical detail. In this extraordinary gallery, you can see 833 of her paintings displayed in geographical order, which she hung after travelling around the world.