Page 1

Art in the service of science Dunedin’s John Buchanan 1819–1898 Linda Tyler

INTRODUCTION Previous spread: John Buchanan (1819-1898), Plagianthus lyalli (now known as Hoheria lyalli), c.1864, watercolour and ink, 143 x 225mm, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 1992-0035-2279/2.

Cover image: John Buchanan, Milford Sound, looking north-west from Freshwater Basin, 1863, watercolour on paper, 222 x 509mm, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena. Acc.7,445.


Scottish botanist and draughtsman John Buchanan (1819–1898) is associated with some of the New Zealand government’s first forays into science: the Reconnaissance and Triangulation Surveys of Otago, the Otago Provincial Geological Survey, the Colonial Museum and Geological Survey of New Zealand, Colonial Botanic Garden, and the New Zealand Institute. He could be described as the colonial Victorian version of the Renaissance man. John Buchanan trained as a calico pattern designer in the same Glasgow textile mill that produced Walter Hood Fitch, the artist who worked for Joseph Dalton Hooker at Kew. Buchanan spent his last forty-seven years in New Zealand botanising and illustrating in equal measure. From his arrival in Dunedin in 1852 until his move to Wellington to work at the Colonial Museum with James Hector in 1865, Buchanan filled sketchbooks with views of the rivers, mountains, valleys and plains of his adopted county, delineated in pencil, pen and ink and watercolour. One of these images holds a central position in the argument for the evolution of a European pictorial conceptualisation of Aotearoa as a landscape rather than mere terrain. Milford Sound, looking north-west from Freshwater Basin 1863 is known through its reproduction larger-than-life-size on the cover of Gil Docking’s 1971 magnum opus Two hundred years of New Zealand landscape painting. This tiny watercolour has been used as visual evidence for a range of arguments including the clear quality of New Zealand light and the focus on resource exploitation of colonial scientific endeavour. Yet Milford Sound was never considered by its maker as a work of art. Its first public appearance was at the New Zealand Exhibition of 1865 in Dunedin, in Class 29, entitled Education Works and Appliances, Sub Class D “Specimens and Illustrations of Natural History and Physical Science”. It was then stored at the Otago Museum as part of the Geological Survey material until transfer to the Hocken a half century later where it came to the notice of the chair of the Pictures committee. Through the agency of this connoisseur and

collector, Charles Brasch, it was reproduced in the influential literary periodical Landfall, with consequent elevation to the canon of New Zealand art history. Buchanan himself had no pretensions to being an artist and did not join any New Zealand art society or sketch club. Like his other interests - gardening, lithography and photography - his artistic abilities were put in the service of science. For the twenty years that he lived in Wellington until retirement in 1885, Buchanan designed the plantings for the Colonial Botanic Garden, displays for the Colonial Museum and drew everything from moths to moas for the journal Transactions of the New Zealand Institute. Uniquely, he introduced to New Zealand a technique of inking and directly printing from botanic specimens. By this means he created the highly accurate illustrations for the book he was commissioned by Governor Grey to produce in 1878, The Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand. Fifty endemic, 18 indigenous, and 9 naturalised species were illustrated, some of them under two names. Distributed widely both in the Imperial Quarto edition, with 64 plates, and the smaller Royal Octavo edition, this publication has now been assessed by scientists as meeting the practical agricultural needs of colonists for access to information on native grasses, but over-dramatising their possible future use. This exhibition aims to give a broader understanding of Buchanan’s significance for both New Zealand’s science history and its art history in four main ways: first, by investigating how his training as a textile designer in Scotland led to his development as both a botanist and artist in New Zealand; second, by considering his relationship to the emergent techniques of photography and lithography as they were practised in New Zealand; third, by situating Buchanan in the traditions of European landscape and natural history illustration and fourth by assessing his contribution as a botanist against recent theorisation of colonial science as perennially in the service of Empire and economics. The catalogue essay maps his route from journeyman to gentleman, and illuminates the possibilities of art and science as technologies for self-fashioning in the colonial context.


Frank Arnold Coxhead (1851-1908), Portrait of John Buchanan, c.1885, albumen photoprint, 130 x 100mm, Toitu¯ : Otago Settlers’ Museum, Dunedin.


Buchanan’s background as a textile designer

Tradition has it that Buchanan was apprenticed as a youth as a pattern drawer for the calico printing industry and that he began botanising as a result of his employer’s demand for ever more novel floral patterns for textiles. It is my contention that Buchanan’s early experience in the cotton industry exposed him to the prevailing fashions for French, Chinese and Indian designs sweeping nineteenth century Europe. After emigration to New Zealand in July 1851 he did not design for textiles again, but it is evident that this background led him to put an emphasis on the decorative quality of plants in a way that distinguishes him from his fellow colonial illustrators who strove to portray structure. Buchanan was not unique amongst Dunedin’s colonists in having a background in calico printing design. James Brown, who designed the engraved masthead of the Otago Witness newspaper, and made 48 delightful pencil caricatures of Otago identities that survive, was also a calico pattern designer from Dunbartonshire, in the heart of Scotland’s printed textile industry.1 Brown was also Buchanan’s almost exact contemporary, having been born 5 days before him2 and coincidentally, Brown arrived in Otago in 1850, the year before Buchanan, and founded an engraving business. Dunbartonshire encompasses the Vale of Leven between Loch Lomond and the River Clyde in West Dunbartonshire about 30 kilometres from Glasgow. The Vale of Leven takes its name from the River Leven, Scotland’s second fastest-flowing river (after the River Spey), which flows from Loch Lomond to enter the River Clyde at Dumbarton, just at the foot of Dumbarton Rock. The Vale of Leven is only about 8 kilometres in length, but because of the twists and turns of the river itself, the water way is about twelve kilometres long. The Loch and the River Leven provide an abundant supply of fresh water which was initially, and continuously, useful in the bleaching process in the textile works which grew up on the banks of the Leven. When the steam engine was developed it provided the boilers with all the water they would ever require as a bye-product of the

1 James Brown was the son of James Brown a calico printer and brought up in Mingavie, Dunbartonshire, where he was apprenticed as a calico printer. He later became a designer for a Manchester textile firm and married the owner’s niece, Ann Newbegin at Manchester in 1849. His biographer, Tim Garrity, argues that social difficulties arising from marriage across class boundaries led to his emigration to Otago in August 1850. T.P. Garrity, “Brown, James, 1819-1877” Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007. URL: http://www. dnzb.govt.nz/ 2 John Buchanan born 15 October 1819, to William Buchanan, founder and Agnes Somerville at Laverton. Witness James Somerville and Alexander Barkeley. FR3533, Glasgow City, Lanark.


3 Nancy M. Adams, “Buchanan, John 1819-1898”, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007, URL: http://www.dnzb. govt.nz/ 4 Nancy M. Adams, John Buchanan F.L.S. botanist and artist (18191898), Tuhinga: Records of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 13:72.


investment of drawing water off the Leven for the textile production processes. The Vale of Leven is famous for Turkey red textiles, the name given to a red dye which had been developed from the root of the madder plant. For most of the nineteenth century after the advent of Turkey red, the River Leven ran red with dyestuffs, stank and was highly poisonous. Dumbarton in the Vale of Leven, where Buchanan was born, is a place synonymous with calico printing, rather than scenic beauty. Born as the second son in what would eventually be a family of four children fathered by iron foundryman William Buchanan and his wife Agnes, it was perhaps inevitable that John Buchanan would take up an apprenticeship in one of Glasgow’s major industries, steel, shipbuilding or textiles. Nancy Adams, John Buchanan’s biographer, has him apprenticed in the craft of pattern designer in the calico printing trade at Bartholomew and Sons Dalmonach works around 1837 when he would have been eighteen years old.3 Apprenticeships were for seven years, during which boys received 3 shillings a week for the first three years, and 4 shillings a week for the last four years. He is described as a pattern drawer’s apprentice still living with his family aged 20 years in the census of 6 June 1841, but by 1842 he was decorating glass partitions in the saloons of iron steamers so he must have begun his training in 1835 at the age of 15 years. By 1840, Nancy Adams has him employed by Henry Monteith & Co. in Barrowfield in Glasgow.4 Montheiths records are now split between the Business History archive at the University of Glasgow and the Calico Printers Association archive in Manchester as they were a very significant firm in nineteenth century Glasgow. They specialised in calico printing, calico having been first introduced to Britain in the17th century by the East India Company. Printed in bright colours, this new cloth which took its name from Calcutta or Kolkat, was very popular and alarmed the English woollen industry, which in 1700 obtained an Act of Parliament banning imported printed fabrics just expressly to stamp it out. After the embargo came into effect, merchants had to import plain cotton and British manufacturers had to develop the techniques for printing it themselves. In Glasgow, by the mid nineteenth century, this technique had been refined to a two part process. Before the cloth was printed it was bleached in crofting or bleaching grounds which were large open areas of grassland cut by parallel, water-filled, ditches. First the cloth was immersed in an alkaline solution made from wood ashes, and then in sour milk. The cloth was then washed in the water-filled ditches and laid out on the grassland, enabling sunlight to bleach it. By the beginning of the nineteenth century chlorine, in the form of bleaching powder, made new methods of mass-production possible. The early calicoes were printed by hand using wood blocks, replaced in

the nineteenth century by engraved copper plates. The copper plates had the advantage of taking more detail than the wood blocks, but still had to be operated by hand. Copper plates were replaced in turn by copper cylinders which enabled entire lengths of cloth to be printed much faster but printing and washing even for only two colours was still a five part process. Various innovations characterised Glaswegian calico, and Monteiths was the firm of calico printers which introduced a method of pattern making using chemical discharge by which cloth was dyed a uniform colour and then a design was bleached out by forcing a bleaching liquid through a metal stencil. Monteiths were famous for making red bandana handkerchiefs, where the cloth was first dyed with Turkey Red, then clamped between lead plates with holes in them, and treated with a bleaching liquid. David Bremner describes the discovery of the process and its significance for Monteiths and also Glasgow: The natives of India used to make silk handkerchiefs, which bore white spots on a uniformly dyed ground. They produced the white spots by tying up the parts with thread, and then subjecting the cloth to the dye. In this branch of dyeing, British manufacturers could not, until a comparatively recent period, compete with the Indians, and the latter held the market for bandanas, until M. Kcechlin made his grand discovery. Messrs Monteith & Co. of the Barrowfield Dyeworks, near Glasgow, adopted the principle of M. Kcechlin soon after it was discovered, and succeeded in making bandanas far surpassing in excellence the best productions of India. Other firms followed, and Glasgow has since had almost a monopoly of the trade.5 A decade earlier than Buchanan, in January 1830, another young man, Walter Hood Fitch had also been an apprentice pattern drawer at Henry Monteith’s. Henry Monteith knew William Jackson Hooker, who at that time was Professor of Botany at Glasgow University and editor of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine and had been its sole illustrator since 1826.6 At Henry Monteith’s suggestion, Hooker bought Walter Fitch out of his apprenticeship and employed him as the artist for the magazine. As Jan Lewis explains, when he was appointed Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in 1841, Hooker took Fitch with him to London as an illustrator where he subsequently made all the colour lithographs for the illustrations to Hooker’s handbook of the New Zealand plants. Perhaps Buchanan was following in Fitch’s footsteps in taking a position at Monteiths – he was only two years younger- and like him, keenly interested in botany. Three years before Buchanan died in

5 David Bremner, “Calico Printing and Turkey-Red Dyeing” in The Industries of Scotland Their Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1869, retrieved from http:// www.electricscotland.com/history/ industrial/industry12.htm 6 Jan Lewis, Walter Hood Fitch: A Celebration, London: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 1992, p.4.


John Buchanan (1819-1898), Ranunculus buchanani, c.1864, watercolour and pencil, 277 x 202mm, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 1992-0035-2279/17.


Dunedin in 1898, John McIndoe published three articles about him in the Otago Witness7. In the first of these, he reproduces what must have been Buchanan’s description to him of pattern designing: On the banks of the Leven, print and dye works were the staple industry, and Buchanan was apprenticed as a pattern designer, drawing on paper the semblance of a leaf, flower, plant, bird or other object, oftentimes assisted by the imagination in making it more attractive. The design produced is carved or engraved by another worker on the block, and then the print is made on cloth or wall paper as may be intended. Great taste and accuracy were required at the trade to become proficient.8 Here McIndoe seems to have been describing eighteenth century woodblock printing techniques perhaps as they had been described to him by Buchanan, but also, importantly, McIndoe goes on to relay how the designs he was producing had their basis in botanical observation, and that, “Selecting and arranging in groups, correctly delineating outline, venation, and colouring were of first importance in producing a satisfactory study.”9 This is the voice of Buchanan stressing the importance of composition to McIndoe. An examination of Buchanan’s watercolour of the Mount Cook lily from his New Zealand album shows similar techniques: the clever turn of a leaf to bring the eye back to the starting point, and the use of a curving line, for example. With these effects, Buchanan breathes life into his plant drawings. Buchanan’s own drawings for lithographing as plates in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, although intended as instruments to accompany a written description of a species new to science, have a decorative aspect which has a direct relationship to Scottish textile designs of the mid nineteenth century. In particular, the strong symmetry of the plant forms can be linked to the way in which pattern designers had to create their images in repeats, exactly mirroring each other. Another important influence on Buchanan was the taste for French, Chinese and Indian textiles where natural forms are combined with geometric patterns as seen in this sample of shawl patterns from Monteiths. According to histories of calico printing of this period in Glasgow, between May 1830 and June 1831, 1,128,814 shawls were produced Glasgow, the value of these being about £200,000. In 1833 there were at least seven firms specialising in calico printing and shawl manufacture, mostly situated in Barrowfield. By the 1840s, however, a decline had begun, according to David Bremner’s 1869 history of calico printing in Scotland, due to the trade “being of a fancy nature” and subject to “sudden alterations of pattern, style and colour”10 It was the downturn in the textile industry which contributed to Buchanan’s decision to emigrate from Glasgow, according to Nancy Adams.11

7 I.M.I. [John McIndoe], “Otago Men of Note: John Buchanan F.L.S.”, Otago Witness, 12 September 1895, p.45; I.M.I. [John McIndoe], “Men of Note in Otago: John Buchanan, Pattern Designer and Botanist (continued)”, Otago Witness, 19 September 1895, p.40; I.M.I. [John McIndoe], “Otago Men of Note: John Buchanan F.L.S., Pattern Designer and Botanist (concluded)”, Otago Witness, 20 September 19895, p.40. 8 I.M.I. [John McIndoe], “Otago Men of Note: John Buchanan F.L.S.”, Otago Witness, 12 September 1895, p.45. 9 Ibid. 10 David Bremner, “Calico Printing and Turkey-Red Dyeing” in The Industries of Scotland Their Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1869, retrieved from http:// www.electricscotland.com/history/ industrial/industry12.htm 11 Nancy M. Adams, John Buchanan F.L.S. botanist and artist (18191898), Tuhinga: Records of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 13:72.


12 See pasted illustrations in the guardbooks of John Buchanan held in Pictorial Collections, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. 13 I.M.I. [John McIndoe], “Otago Men of Note: John Buchanan F.L.S.”, Otago Witness, 12 September 1895, p.45. 14 Ibid.


Thanks to the newspapers and magazines sent out to him in Dunedin and Wellington by his sister Agnes Small, Buchanan was able to collect printed illustrations by other artists as well as making his own. In his New Zealand albums, printed reproductions of exotic flora from newspapers and magazines are collaged alongside his own pencil drawings.12 Significantly, these are not diagrammatic representations of flowering plants conveying scientific information but aesthetically pleasing images of ranunculas and anemones which he presents alongside his drawings of New Zealand natives for the Transactions as if to draw a parallel. Like the artist of those reproductions, Buchanan’s ability to compose lively designs that would fit into the restrictive area of a journal page was acquired in his years of apprenticeship as a pattern designer. Clearly he excelled at composition, and it is his arrangement of plants upon the page that so often distinguishes his art from that of others. Buchanan was virtually self-taught as a botanist. McIndoe remarks that, “Anxious to excel in his business, botany naturally became his favourite study, and his leisure time was devoted to a careful search in the Vale of Leven and surrounding districts for specimens which could be introduced as something new and attractive in the trade, while his plodding inquisitive mind, with the help of such books as he had at his command, was constantly employed examining the structure and constitution of the plant or flower so as to enable him to determine its position in the Linnean system.”13 Buchanan would have collected his plants on field trips in one of the vascula that were being mass produced in Britain by the 1820s in response to the mass popularity of amateur botany. Buchanan also carried an artist’s portfolio which served as a portable plant press by keeping specimens flat which is seen at his feet in the carte-de-visite portrait by McGregor of Dunedin. It is likely that he learnt to use both these methods by attending botany classes at the Glasgow Mechanics’ Institute which had been founded in 1823. This was an offshoot of the Andersonian, the technical college founded by John Anderson (1726-1796) Again, it is McIndoe’s Otago Witness article alludes to the significance of this institution for Buchanan: “The Mechanics’ Institute had not long been opened. It was the first in Britain, or about the first, of these highly valued academies, from which the operative class derived immense benefit, and with which the names of Dr Birbeck and Lord Brougham will ever be associated, and to it our friend soon wended his way, eagerly hunting up every book bearing on his favourite study which its library contained.”14 The Glasgow Mechanics’ Institute was housed in a disused chapel and comprised a lecture room, library and a collection of scientific apparatus as

John Buchanan (1819-1898), Coprosma lucida, c.1865, watercolour and ink, 146 x 224mm, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 1992-0035-2279/1.


15 “The Glasgow Mechanics’ Institute – considered a model because of its library, museum, and lecture program – was founded in 1823.” Mechanic’s institute. (2010). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online: http://www.oringinal.search. eb.com.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/eb/ article-9051704 16 See Emily Woolmore and Victoria Peters, “Administrative History” Records of Glasgow School of Art, Scotland, GB1694, GSAA, Glasgow University Archive Services and Hugh Ferguson, Glasgow School of Art: The History, Glasgow: The Foulis Press of the Glasgow School of Art, 1995. 17 Ibid.


well as a museum. Classes included such subjects as chemistry, mechanics, anatomy, grammar, mathematics and drawing, general and mechanical. It was the only institution in Glasgow to offer instruction in drawing until the establishment of a Government School of Design which opened in 1845.15 The Glasgow Government School of Design was one of twenty similar institutions established in the United Kingdom’s manufacturing centres between 1837-1851. Set up as a consequence of the evidence given to the House of Commons Select Committee on Arts and their connection with Manufactures of 1835-1836, the Government Schools hoped to improve the quality of the country’s product design through a system of education that provided training in design for industry. The Glasgow Government School of Design (which changed its name to the Glasgow School of Art in 1853) ran courses in elementary drawing, shading from the flat, shading from casts, chiaroscuro painting, colouring, figure drawing from the flat, figure drawing from the round, painting the figure, geometrical drawing, perspective and modelling. A course in design which was considered the ‘summit of the system’ where students came up with original designs for actual manufactures or decorative purposes was introduced in 1849, when Charles Heath Wilson became its second headmaster headmaster and Bruce Bell was engaged to teach mechanical and architectural drawing. 16 It is tempting to think that Buchanan might have had the opportunity to attend some of the glasses at the Glasgow Government School of Design, particularly as the annals of the Glasgow Mechanics’ Institute record that in 1845 the “calico printers and designers have naturally been withdrawn from the drawing classes of the Institution and have connected themselves with the school especially established for their instruction.”17 However, since the Mechanics’ Institution continued to have a College of Science and Arts from 1823 until 1887, it is most likely that Buchanan continued study there. Most significantly, if John Buchanan was still attending classes at the Glasgow Mechanic’s Institute in 1849, he would have encountered the author of The Clydesdale Flora, botanist Roger Hennedy (1809–1876) an expert on lithography. About ten years older than Buchanan, Hennedy too had been apprenticed as a block cutter to a calico printer. By 1834, when the new process of lithography was being introduced into the Glasgow textile industry and block cutting was rendered obsolete, Hennedy adapted to this change of circumstances by teaching himself the technique of tracing designs on paper for transfer to stone. He quickly acquired great skill in drawing, establishing himself as a fabric designer, and like Buchanan, this interest in design led

him toward the study of flowers and finally teaching at the Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institute. The manual which he wrote for his botanical class, The Clydesdale Flora, first appeared in 1865 and had lithographed illustrations. Unfortunately, there is no record of whether Buchanan attended his classes, but Robert Brown – a bootmaker and amateur botanist – who later emigrated to Christchurch did, because he named a plant he discovered on Bank’s Peninsula after Hennedy. The teaching relationship is described in the Transactions alongside the specimen. Yet if Buchanan was taught by Hennedy, he does not seem to have brought much experience with the process of lithography to his role as draughtsman at the Colonial Museum. In December 1868 when Buchanan was preparing the drawings for the first volume of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, his colleague, the scientist Richard Gore sent the first lithographic proofs to the Museum’s Director, James Hector with a note to say that these were Buchanan’s first attempts with the crayon. It is remarkable then that if he was self-taught in lithography, rather than learning it from Roger Hennedy at the Mechanic’s Institute courtesy of the latter’s involvement with fabric design, Buchanan would have become proficient enough with the process to adapt it to incorporate printing directly from the plant specimens themselves. The Indigenous Grasses would go on to win Buchanan a third order of merit certificate at the Melbourne Exhibition in 1880-81 in recognition of his ability with lithographic processes. Having served an apprenticeship in the printing trade, Buchanan had no pretensions to being an artist and did not join any New Zealand art society or sketch club in either Wellington or Dunedin. Like his other interests – gardening and photography – his artistic abilities were put in the service of science. In his work in illustration Buchanan relished the opportunity to include whatever parts of a specimen were deemed important by the scientist writing the accompanying article. He worked to convey a generic three-dimensional structure by a deft use of the placement of parts including turned leaves in plants, patterns and shadows in insects and animals, suppressing the defects of the individual specimen and emphasize the generic. In creating this niche for himself in the world of colonial science, he was well-served by his early training in design for the calico printing industry in Glasgow. It was that training which had first alerted him to the decorative quality of plants and also nurtured his appreciation of beauty and novelty in nature which found fulfilment in his adopted country of New Zealand.


John Buchanan (1819-1898), View of Dusky Bay from Hill Above Cascade Cove, c.1863, watercolour on paper, 210 x 380mm, Toitu¯ : Otago Settlers’ Museum, Dunedin, 1949.42.3, p.26.

John McGregor, Portrait of John Buchanan, c.1865, carte-de-visite, 85 x 60mm, Toitu¯ : Otago Settlers’ Museum, Dunedin, 1949.42.1, pasted inside front cover.


Arrival in Dunedin

From working class roots in the Vale of Leven, Buchanan transformed himself by emigration into the mould of the nineteenth century gentleman scholar. Buchanan used his talent for drawing and his ability to adapt “from Nature” in two dimensional rendering, alongwith his botanical knowledge, to join the ranks of scientists in New Zealand. A passionate plant hunter, and a lifelong bachelor, he had the leisure to devote his weekends to botanising. The Great Exhibition in 1851 provided the first opportunity to see at first hand many of the new species to be found in the English colonies, and Buchanan emigrated in that year, arriving in Port Chalmers in 1852 at the age of 33. Sufficiently flush from a sojourn to the goldfields at Ballarat the following year, he purchased a 10 acre block in North East Valley described as “rich in botanic specimens” in 1854. Assistant to Alexander Garvie on the provincial reconnaissance surveys of Otago carried out between 1856 and 1859, his skills with a gold pan led to him being the first to discover gold specks (in March 1858) in the Tuapeka and Clutha Rivers, ahead of Gabriel Read at Lawrence in 1861. While prospecting in the Tuapeka and Manuherikia regions, he collected plants which he posted to Dr John Ross, a medical practitioner and amateur botanist, back in Busby. Ross returned the favour, suggesting his antipodean friend to Joseph Dalton Hooker at Kew as a good choice as draughtsman on James Hector’s forthcoming geological survey of Otago. Hector engaged Buchanan as draughtsman for the expeditions of 1863. For two years they explored the West Coast by land, and also by sea in the schooner Matilda Hayes with a group of Maori guides. From being an enthusiastic amateur, suddenly Buchanan had become one of the new colony’s men of science, a pioneer and an explorer. The role of Hector in Buchanan’s development as both an artist and a scientist is pivotal. By the end of 1864, Buchanan had produced all the works on which his posthumous reputation as an artist rests: maps, botanical drawings and watercolour panoramas of the western lakes and sounds including Milford Sound looking north-west from Freshwater Basin 1863. He had also written ‘Sketch of the botany of Otago’, published in the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute in 1868, and had accumulated large plant collections. All were displayed to illustrate the work of the Geological Survey of Otago at the New Zealand Exhibition of 1865 in Dunedin. Buchanan was a keen participant in competitions for awards at the various inter-colonial exhibitions throughout the nineteenth century, as the variety of certificates and awards held at the Hocken Library attests.


Hector, as director of the newly constituted Geological Survey and Colonial Museum in Wellington, secured appointments for all his Dunedin staff in Wellington, where Buchanan lived for the next 20 years, publishing 36 papers on botanical subjects in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, (he was a foundation member of the Institute), and producing lithographic illustrations for this journal from 1867 until 1885. The pinnacle of his scientific career was the publication of the three volume, illustrated folio work The indigenous grasses of New Zealand (1878, 1879, 1880) which was printed “direct from Nature” that is with the plants laid on the lithographic stones. Botanical and geological trips continued to take Buchanan to all parts of the country, and were documented in field-books and many landscape and natural history drawings. As the Colonial Museum became more important to the nascent scientific community, so Buchanan’s professional associations grew to include W. B. D. Mantell, W. T. L. Travers, H. H. Travers, A. McKay, T. Kirk and W. Skey. When he retired in June 1885 he was made a life member of the Wellington Philosophical Society, and he continued botanizing in Otago where he farmed at North East Valley until his death in 1898.

The Colonial Museum, Wellington, 1865

As a symbol of the arrival of science in the new colony, the building housing the Geological Survey’s collections had to announce permanence and authority. This was ironic since it was built very quickly from prefabricated components, and was a modest wooden structure, yet it was deceptively detailed to make it look like it was constructed of solid stone by judicious use of the Victorian Classical Revival Italianate style. This idiom linked it to other governmental structures in Wellington and conveyed classical heritage, synonymous with learning and culture. The collections and activities of the Colonial Museum and Geological Survey almost immediately outgrew its original 1865 structure, yet with additions and alterations, it would remain the home of the Museum until the transfer to the Mount Cook site in 1936. By today’s standards, the Colonial Museum was voracious in its collecting and successful in achieving a high visitation. Despite being described as “an expensive luxury” by parliamentary politicians, in its first year it had accumulated 14,000 specimens and artefacts in its collections. William Clayton, rather than William Mason, seems to have been responsible for its design, and he was chosen by James


Hector (who as Director of the Geological Survey acted as the client) because of his first-hand experience of exhibition and museum buildings in Britain and his experience in designing one for the Dunedin 1865 New Zealand Exhibition. Clayton’s conversancy with modern museum display and professional museum methods is evident in the lack of windows and use of natural lighting from a lantern in the roof in the original design, and his inclusion of both a workshop and an exhibition preparation room, entitled “Unpacking Room” on the plans. The Colonial Museum was one of the first buildings constructed for the government after the capital city moved from Auckland to Wellington as “apparently the General Government was anxious to establish as many of its agencies as possible in permanent quarters in Wellington to prevent the capital being shifted back to Auckland.”18 Clayton had produced plans for Hector by April 1865 and these show a central hall with two wings of equal size with a two-storied section in front to contain offices. It was at Hector’s suggestion that “the framing [be] constructed in Dunedin”19 to speed things up. However, there was only funding available to permit the central hall, which had a total area of 1,948 square feet or 593 square metres. The cost of building the museum including fitting out the laboratory and equipping the structure with glass cases for the exhibits was £945 19 s 10d. and Dr Hector’s salary set at £800 per annum at a time when an average labourer’s annual wage was £50, hence its being called an “expensive luxury”. The Wellington provincial geologist, James Coutts Crawford seems to have updated Hector regularly on the progress in construction: “A Museum appears to be in course of erection between the Church and Mantell’s upper paddock,” he wrote on 13 July 1865 and then again on 24 July “The walls of the Museum are up and the roof is in progress.”20 Hector arrived to take up his new job in August 1865 and William Skey, John Buchanan and Richard Gore who would each take up posts in the new Colonial Museum, followed shortly afterwards. The building itself seems to have been completed in September 1865, opening its doors to visitors in December of that year. The objects assembled by Walter Buller for the New Zealand Society in 1851 which had been stored for over a decade in the upper levels of the Provincial Government offices formed the basis for its collections.21 These things were supplemented by material that James Hector brought together under the auspices of the Otago Provincial Geological Survey – mostly rocks, minerals and fossils to illustrate the geology and natural resources of that Province – and exhibited at the New Zealand Exhibition in Dunedin in 1865.22 The Wellington Independent of 7 April 1866 noted “a large white looking

18 Roger Dell, Dominion Museum 1865-1965, (Dominion Museum: Wellington), 1965, p.3. 19 James Hector, Letter to Mason and Clayton Architects, 19 May 1865, Letterbook no.28 1865-1870, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Archives, Wellington. 20 Dell, p.3. 21 Dell, p.1. 22 “At this time pressure was being exerted on the General Government to appoint a Director of a New Zealand Geological Survey and a Museum. In June 1864 negotiations took place between Hector and the Surveyor-General of the Government of the day, F. Whitaker. Hector was offered the position of Director of the Geological Survey when his position in Otago terminated, and accepted. The agreement included the establishment of a museum.” Dell, p.3.


John Buchanan (1819-1898), Wanganui during the War, c.1864, watercolour on paper, 240 x 170mm, , Toitu¯ : Otago Settlers’ Museum, Dunedin, 1949.42.2, p.73.


cement coated building like a gigantic eastern caravanserai, without any windows”23: Nelson’s Colonist of 23 March 1866 saw a “plain and unpretending building” and commented on the use of natural daylight for top-lighting. However, the lack of windows was no impediment to burglary. Less than a year after opening, the museum was considered “an easy crib to crack” becoming the target for professional thieves in 1866 who simply cut out a panel in the front door and drew the bolt.  The Otago Witness unkindly observed that the heist (which netted a lock of Napoleon’s hair amongst other curiosities valued at 200 pounds in total) was “the first symptom of interest which the colony’s inhabitants have manifested in the institution”.   While falling short of blaming the architecture for the break-in, the writer clearly found the Colonial Museum uninviting, and suspected its Director of taking a junket: “Day after day it has remained open without attracting other visitors than those seeking shelter from a passing shower.  The love of science appears in the Empire City to be confined to the criminal class. Dr Hector is absent examining the coal deposits at the Bay of Islands. He will probably be much shocked at the attention devoted to his collection in his absence.”24 Despite the inference that the Museum was not used, it was open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 1-4pm. The number of visitors from the opening in December until August of the following year is given in Hector’s 1866 report in the Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives as 1600 at a time when there were 7,460 people resident in Wellington, which means that around a quarter of the entire population base had been there. Yet high visitation was not the basis upon which Hector began petitioning for extensions less than a year after completion of the original building, but rather its utility in the rapid development of New Zealand’s natural resources. In his “Memorandum Concerning the Colonial Museum” published in 1866, Hector explained what he believed the functions of the museum to be: he takes care to distinguish the scientific role of the Colonial Museum from that of popular museums which he believed were already developing in the provinces: a scientific Museum differs from one intended only for the popular diffusion of natural science – the former being a record office from which typical or popular Museums can be lapsing, as is too frequently the case, into unmeaning collections of curiosities.25 In terms of the interior design of the Colonial Museum, with its double height central portion with gallery running around the perimeter, there are two key prototypes. One is the Museum of Science and Art in Edinburgh, a building that Hector and his contemporaries may have known, which also had a classical design, and significantly, gas lighting. William Clayton had been in England when Osborne House was built, the catalyst for the fashion for the Italian Renaissance

23 “The Colonial Museum”, Wellington Independent, 7 April 1866, p.5. 24 “News of the Week”, Otago Witness, Issue 741, 10 February 1866, p.11. 25 James Hector, “Memorandum concerning the Colonial Museum”, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1866, Session I, D-09.


26 Shirley Anne Crighton, William Henry Clayton, colonial architect 1823-1887, unpublished MA thesis in History, Canterbury University, 1985, p.83. 27 Anna Crighton, “Clayton, William Henry 1823-1877”, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007, URL: http://www.dnzb. govt.nz 28 Anna Crighton, 1985, pp.38-39.


style in England. As Anna Crighton puts it in her thesis on Clayton, “Classical elements in a museum or exhibition building also conveyed to the colonial spectator the reassuring idea of the heritage of Antiquity – the legacy of European civilisation – being re-established in a British settler colony on the other side of the world.”26 Clayton as an architect exemplifies an early kind of colonial cringe, being born in 1823 in Tasmania, one of 12 children of Henry Clayton and his wife, Mary McLaughlan., but taken to England in 1840 by his father who wanted his son to have the benefits of higher education. While in England, William Clayton was articled to a prominent architect, and in the course of his architectural training he became proficient in surveying and civil engineering. After marrying in 1847 William Clayton returned to Tasmania in March 1848. He was to be resident there for the next 15 years, designing over 300 buildings, and also growing his family to its full size of three daughters and three sons before gold drew him to Otago in 1863 with 13 cases of books, drawing and instruments.27 By February of 1864 he had gone into partnership with William Mason and Clayton and during Clayton’s remaining six years in Dunedin the partnership designed many buildings, including All Saints’ Church, Dunedin (1865). Anna Crighton describes the styling of the exterior of the Colonial Museum in her 1985 thesis on the architect: “The Museum was a fine example of a timber rendering of architectural modes which had evolved for masonry construction. Italianate in style with arched windows and entranceway, its minimal decoration and symmetrical planning were all typical elements of Clayton’s style. The first storey was set back from the façade, in front of which balustration served both to frame the balcony on the first floor and as entablature to the ground floor. On closer examination subtle decoration was inherent in the window surrounds and the cornices of both floors. The fenestration of the first storey – groups of three windows central to the façade and on each side – complemented the symmetry. The horizontal lines of the timbering and pseudo quoins contrasted with the strong verticals of the windows, entranceway, and chimneys, and lent a rusticated effect especially prominent on the ground floor for balance.”28 In St Andrew’s Church, Launceston, in 1849, Clayton had used cast iron once before to support a gallery, so he was familiar with the efficiencies of the material. It made the interior more open and allowed light to penetrate the building more effectively, but it was an expensive material which was imported.. Clayton would have become familiar with its use through his study of engineering in England in the 1840s, the very time when the great cathedrals of transportation –railway stations– were being built of iron. It was a use of new technology which would reach its apogee in Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace,

London 1850-51. In its own modest way, Clayton’s design for the Colonial Museum reiterates the ideas of Paxton’s Crystal Palace, blending them with fashionable Italianate architectural styling. This hybridisation of allusions to the past and the technology of the present would have suited the ambitions of the adventurous 34 year old Director of the Colonial Museum, James Hector very well. During 1868, the museum building was increased by the erection of a new wing in accordance with the original plan. This extension provided exhibition and office space, room for a library and a meeting room and was to accommodate the 9,297 specimens of rocks, minerals and fossils, 2,846 specimens of recent shells and 1,811 “specimens of natural history including woods, fishes, wools, native implements, weapons, dresses etc..”29 Hector was pleased with the result declaring “The Museum looks pretty” in a letter to R.L. Holmes in Canterbury.30 In that same year the large carved Maori meeting house, Te Hau-ki-Tauranga, which had originally been built in Poverty Bay, was re-erected in the Colonial Museum, and became the location for the inaugural meeting of the New Zealand Institute. Clayton went on to become Colonial Architect in 1869 living in Wellington until his death at the age of 54 years on a trip to Dunedin eight years later. Employed on drawings for Government House in 1871, he gave the work on the extensions to the Colonial Museum to the architect Thomas Turnbull who also designed further extensions in 1873. The extensions were necessary as Hector wanted the whole of the collection out on display, an approach that was at odds with modern museum methods of separation of collection from exhibition. While Clayton’s architecture with its modern features such as cast iron columns and gas lighting at first could accommodate the burgeoning materials, by the end of the nineteenth century, the Colonial Museum was completely overcrowded. In less than half a century this centrepiece of the colony’s development had gone from displaying exhibits in the most advanced manner possible to being stale and outmoded. So much so, that a visiting geologist from the British Museums Association was moved to pronounce the Colonial Museum “the worst managed institution of the kind in the whole of the southern hemisphere.”31 As well as his work on displays for the Museum, and his illustrations for the Geological Survey, John Buchanan helped manage the Wellington Colonial Botanic Garden in the period from 1868 to 1885. Buchanan was an obvious choice for oversight of the Botanic Garden because of his knowledge of plants and planting. By 1864, Buchanan had completed his essay “A Sketch of the Botany of Otago” which was presented a year later at the 1865 New Zealand Exhibition in Dunedin, before being published in the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1868. As a result of his accomplishment in botany, he was

29 James Hector quoted in Roger Dell, p.4. 30 James Hector quoted in Conal McCarthy, “Displaying Natural History” in Simon Nathan and Mary Varnham [eds.], The Amazing World of James Hector, Awa Press: Wellington, 2008, p.55. 31 McCarthy, p.59.


appointed a Corresponding Member of the Natural History Society of Glasgow, and elected a Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London in 1880. Five years later, on the occasion of his retirement and departure from the capital, he was made a life member of the Wellington Philosophical Society. Yet his botanical achievements did not result in promotion in government service, and his title during his twenty years of employ as one of the staff of the Colonial Museum and Geological Survey remained merely “draughtsman” with commensurate lowly remuneration.

The Professionalisation of Science in New Zealand 32 Peggy Burton, The New Zealand Geological Survey 18651965. Wellington: New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1965, p. 42. 33 “New Zealand Institute”, New Zealand Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Wellington: Government Printer, 1867, p.565.


In 1866, a government-appointed commission, headed by Dr Charles Knight, the scientist in charge of the Meteorological Service, was charged with examining the functions of this newly formed Geological Survey.32 This commission pointed out the inadequate levels of staffing of the Survey, and recommended the immediate publication of geological reports already in manuscript form. Two other findings were pivotal: that the field maps, sketches and drawings made by officers of the department become the property of the Colony, and that the Meteorological Service (Knight’s own department) be transferred to the Survey. Some appointments were made to field staff as a result, but staffing remained minimal. This commission was part of the professionalisation of science in New Zealand. The first scientific society, the New Zealand Society, had been formed in Wellington in 1851 with Sir George Grey as President. In 1862, a second society, the Canterbury Philosophical Institute was founded with Julius von Haast as President. Both were essentially regional groups which met infrequently, and did not have the resources to publish research papers. It was the 1865 New Zealand Exhibition in Dunedin which generated enough public enthusiasm to support the establishment of a national scientific organisation, resulting in the New Zealand Institute Bill for the Advancement of Science and Art which was introduced to parliament in 1867, “aimed at establishing an organisation for the advancement of science and the arts in New Zealand and to give some permanence of character to the scientific institutions already established”.33 Once it had passed into law, the New Zealand Institute Act began to give better control of scientific institutions such as the Colonial Museum, Colonial Observatory, the Geological Survey, the Meteorological Department and the Standard Weights and Measures – and brought them all under the supervision of Dr Hector. The Museum to house these important departments was constructed in close proximity to the Houses of Parliament

John Buchanan (1819-1898), Grey River on the Beach, c.1864, watercolour on paper, 240 x 170mm, Toitu¯ : Otago Settlers’ Museum, Dunedin, 1949.42.1, p.8.


John Buchanan (1819-1898), Scene on the Clutha, c.1856, monochrome wash on paper, 149 x 226mm, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, E 207-q-033.


and Government House. Hector’s residence was next door to the Museum on the corner of Museum Street and Sydney Street West where John Buchanan lived. Walter Mantell’s property shared a common boundary with Hector, and the Colonial Museum on the western side, and fronted onto Sydney Street West as well. It was a unified community of scientific men. The New Zealand Institute Act provided for a Board of twelve Governors, divided into three categories – ex officio, nominated and elected. The three ex officio members were to be the Governor, the Colonial Secretary and the Superintendant of Wellington. Government was to nominate six Governors and affiliated societies to elect three. The nominated Governors were a mix of politicians and scientists with James Hector and William Thomas Locke Travers (both a politician and a scientist) the only two men to remain as Governors from 1869 until 1891. Buchanan was never either elected or nominated to be a Governor, which indicates his standing in the eyes of his scientific peers.

Wellington Botanic Garden

The activities of all the scientific interests overseen by Hector were inextricably connected with each other and with governmental requirements. Botanic Gardens were deemed an essential part of scientific research in the new colony, but were realised last. Although provision for land had been made in London in 1839 a botanical reserve was not established until 1869 when an Act of Parliament created the Wellington Botanic Garden. That Act provided for a garden in which a diversity of plants could be grown “for the purposes of study and introduction” and in which they would be “arranged according to a system of classification, not simply for ornament and utility”. The New Zealand Institute Board became responsible for the development of the Garden, and both Boards convened on the same day with the Institute meeting in the morning, and the Botanic Garden Board in the afternoon. The members attending were the same at both. It was to be a garden organised primarily for botanical research and instruction, rather than recreation. Seeds and plants introduced by Government for the assessment of their economic potential were received by the Museum and the Geological Survey as well as by the Garden. This is indicated by the way in which Hector would use the Botanic Garden Annual Report to record conifer seed imports and their distribution, as well as other plant trials, but much of the detailed information of their success is in the records of the Geological Survey and Colonial Museum.


34 Walter Mantell, “Presidential Address to the Wellington Philosophical Society”, Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, Volume 3, 1870, p.22.


Five years after the passing of the Botanic Garden Act, the Board had accomplished the basic work necessary for any public garden. The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, was concerned with most of the developing colonial botanic gardens and in 1883, issued a set of guidelines for Colonial Governments and Superintendants of Botanic Gardens. There are handwritten notes on the copy that Hector received from Joseph Dalton Hooker showing his satisfaction in having already carried out all that was suggested. Dr Hooker recommended the establishment of both a herbarium and a library, but because of the New Zealand Institute’s administration of the Garden from the Museum, no separate herbarium or library was necessary. In 1870, Walter Mantell chose to refer to the Institute’s new responsibility when giving his Presidential Address to the Wellington Philosophical Society, emphasising that it would preserve native flora rather than displaying exotica: Next to the rapidly increasing importance and public utility of the Colonial Museum, no undertaking that I am aware of is more likely to aid in furtherance of the object of our Society than the formation of a Botanic Garden. Of the successful accomplishment of which there now seems to be a reasonable probability, and we may, I am assured confidentially, trust that the gentlemen to whom the direction of this work is committed will keep constantly in view the great public objects to be attained by the proper use of a Botanical Garden in this, the average climate of the colony and will resist the temptation of sacrificing to gaurdy parterres of foreign flowers the space required for assembling together specimens of our indigenous flora. When that most instructive has been achieved, or at least when a sufficient space for such a collection has been carefully selected and set apart for that purpose, there will remain plenty of room for some of the more valuable importations whether of trees, shrubs or flowers.34 The first meeting of the Botanic Garden Board was held on 28 September 1869, and Buchanan was not present. He was, however, required to make a daily morning inspection of work in the Garden before going in to the museum when he would consult with his contemporary, William Bramley (1819-1908), the Loughborough-born professional gardener who was the inaugural Keeper of the Botanic Garden. It is difficult to ascertain the extent of Buchanan’s role in designing the gardens, supervising the formation of paths, fences, and plantings. The following is typical of his form of reporting: I am of the opinion that the new cut track in the botanical garden is done according with the contract, being cut 4 feet in the solid over the whole, except in a very few places were it is formed by made ground. There is still some amount of work to be done before it can be considered finished, viz. several humps on the bank to be cut off, and the whole sloped to a certain extent, as also a few levels improved that look bad.

John Buchanan (1819-1898), Taieri Bush and Saddle Hill, c.1856, monochrome wash on paper, 157 x 238mm, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, E 207-q-032.


John Buchanan (1819-1898), Notothlaspi notabilis, Pachycladon novae-zealandiae and Pachycladon glabra, c.1881, pencil on paper, 240 x 170mm, Toitu¯ : Otago Settlers’ Museum, Dunedin, 1949.42.2, p.1, drawings to illustrate a paper by John Buchanan, “On the Alpine Flora of New Zealand”, published in the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, Volume XIV, plate XXX, 1881.


This will I believe cost in labour four weeks of one man at 7 shillings per day £8.18.35 Buchanan was given the responsibility of producing the first map with a concomitant listing of the plants growing in the Garden. When prolific Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope visited the major botanical gardens of Australasia in 1872 he remarked, “The Sydney Garden is like a well told tale. The Melbourne Garden is like a scientific treatise. The Adelaide Garden is like a poem” but what struck him on his visit to the new Wellington Botanic Garden was the missed opportunity to preserve native bush as part of it: A Botanic Garden is in the course of construction which has great advantages in the lie of the lands and in the shape of the surrounding hills. It is a pity that it was not commenced before as much of the surrounding timber was taken away.36 Fortunately, Buchanan’s intimate knowledge of the remnant bush informs “Notes on the Colonial Botanic Garden, Wellington and its Flora” read to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1875.37 This unpublished manuscript lists individual plants found in the Reserve as well as giving a general description of the topography of the area, before listing the plantings of conifers and other exotics. Buchanan remarks on the weight of the epiphytes on the remaining large trees, causing the branches to break and hastening the end of the trees. This hypothesis was critiqued by Thomas Kirk who commented after the paper was read that “if they were injured at all it must be owing to the decay of the timber and not the weight of a parasite”.38 Also in 1875, Buchanan was instructed to produce a map of the Garden which would show the main ponds, paths, cottages and areas in bush. Members of the Board had been asked to suggest names for the paths and the names. There ware three entrances – the main Gate which led in to the Main Path and Dray Road, the Sydney Street Gate which was served by the Glenbervie Path, and the Eastern Gate with its Eastern Path. The high points in the Reserve were named Druid Hill, Pine Hill, Seaview Hill, Cedar Hill and the Rock. Some path names described the nature of the land – Junction, Easy, Hill, Serpentine, Bridge, Rock, Glen and West Paths. Kiwi, Weka, Ruru and Houhou were the bird and insect names chosen for four other paths. However the majority of the names chosen were those of plants and the choice of Ngaio, Rangiora, Hinau, Fern, Kawakawa, Manuka Scrub, Grass, Gorse, Pine Hill and Fir Paths represent the vegetation in those areas still whereas the Clematis, Mako (wineberry), Myrtle (ramarama), Aka (Metrosideros perforata) and Bamboo Paths no longer have the plantings that gave them their names. In his 1875 paper, Buchanan had noted that the Garden held 159 species of plants exclusive of conifers and native flora. Many of the exotics had arrived from Kew in Wardian cases. When Hector was in London in 1875, he and

35 20th Annual Report of the Colonial Museum and Laboratory, 1885. 36 Anthony Trollope, Australia and New Zealand. Melbourne: George Robertson, 1873, p. 632. 37 John Buchanan”Notes on the Colonial Botanic Garden Wellington: Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society on 4 October 1875. MU000156/001/0019 Papers Read but not published in the Transactions of New Zealand Institute, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Archives. 38 Report of the 4th General Meeting of the Wellington Philosophical Society, October, 1875” Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, Volume 8, 1875.


39 Note, 7 April, 1876 in Seventh Annual Report of the Botanic Garden Board, Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representatives, 1876, Session I, H-30, p.5.


Hooker had supervised the packing of three trial shipments of Wardian cases to New Zealand. The first trial consisted of twelve Wardian cases, filled with an assortment of seeds and shrubs including a number of rhododendron species, and these were dispatched on the ship Collingwood on 13 April 1875. After the three month voyage, only half the plants, not the conifers but the rhododendrons, survived the voyage. Towards the end of 1875, a second trial shipment of Wardian cases containing only conifers, was sent from Kew on the ship Penshaw. Of 414 plants dispatched from Kew, 88 perished. The third trial shipment from Kew consisted of plants and cuttings sent on the S.S. Durham, via Melbourne. The plants suffered badly, not only as a result of the voyage, but also because of the transfer to another ship at Melbourne as the Seventh Annual Report of the Botanic Garden Board for 1876 describes: The plants contained in the 6 casks, per “Durham” were opened in the Botanical Garden, and found to be in a very bad state, being sweated and mouldy. In one cask bilge water had evidently wet half of the contents, and in another was found a nest of young rats. The contents of Casks III and V were carefully examined, and the dead plants thrown aside; not more than 10 per cent may be expected to grow. They have been planted out in lines. If the contents of the remaining casks had been treated in the same manner, it would have taken six days’ work. It was therefore considered expedient to plant out the whole in trenches, close together when any having sufficient vitality left would grow. The Berberis only are likely to turn out well; and if the others give 10 per cent of live plants, it may be considered very good under the circumstances. The care with which the whole had been made up and packed deserved better success in carriage. The failure, therefore, must be ascribed to the length of time the plants have remained in the steamy hold of the ship. In the case of willow cuttings, it may be noticed that the ends of some of the parcels were covered with clay, and some with an inferior sealingwax; with the former, the cuttings are in the best order; with the latter, the wax had become semi-fluid, and the ends enclosed soft and decayed. A great portion of the willows had thrown out root fibres along their whole length, and might have grown a month ago, though few are now likely to succeed.39 Buchanan’s earlier work on the cultivation of conifers in the Garden was elaborated in his second paper “Notes on the Coniferous Trees Growing in the Colonial Botanic Gardens” written shortly before his retirement and read before the Wellington Philosophical Institute in 1885 and published as part of the 20th Annual Report of the Colonial Museum and Laboratory.

In the initial manuscript version of this paper, he wrote of Pinus insignis (now known as Pinus radiata) that “it is a rapid grower and affords early shelter from winds. Its timber is worthless, except as firewood, and the tree is subject to blight. Except as ornamental plantation or firewood, it is of little value.”40 Neither he nor the board could have envisaged how successful radiata pine was to become. As was to be expected, there was some early criticism of the Board’s concentration on pines. In 1875, Thomas Kirk commented at a meeting of the Wellington Philosophical Society that “It was a pity that planting at the Garden was confined chiefly to pines”. Kirk thought that deciduous trees should be introduced and more attention devoted to native plants. By 1873, the fourth Annual Report of the Board stated that 1000 trees had been planted that year, bringing the total to 2700 coniferous trees and 1000 miscellaneous. Kirk himself is recorded as a donor to the Gardens of “Native shrubs, ferns and seeds” in the Annual Report for 1875-76, and again in 1881–2 and 1882–3. Of the 127 species of conifers recorded by Buchanan in 1885, his description of the developing Pinetum indicates that some of the species had already reached a height of ten feet. Buchanan believed in the economic potential of these species as the foundation of New Zealand’s forestry, and reaches the following conclusions: To meet the present public taste in tree propagation it would only be necessary to supply the seed of 2 Trees, these are Cupressus macrocarpa and Pinus insignis, in fact the nurserymen can sell nothing else and they are consequently not inclined to rear others. It would appear that this preference has arisen from the rapid growth of the two species mentioned and indicates them as the future nurses of our future forests, especially in the South and it is probably that Pinus pinaster and varieties will play the same part near the sea, thus forming the three legged stool on which all our future forestry will be nursed on.41 The Wellington Garden had received £300 per annum to carry out research into the economic potential of plants. As a member of Hector’s staff, Buchanan carried out the policies promulgated at the time of the passing of the Botanic Garden Act and he served Government needs by using the facilities of the Garden for researching the economic potential of grasses and trees. When in 1885, Government refused the Annual Grant not only to the Wellington Botanic Garden but to all the Botanic Gardens and Domains in New Zealand, Buchanan was fortunately on the eve of his retirement from public service.

40 John Buchanan, “On the durability of New Zealand timber with suggestions for its preservation”, Papers Read but not published in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Archives, MU000156/001/0018 41 Ibid.


The Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand

42 James Hector, Preface to John Buchanan, The Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand, Wellington: Government Printer, 1878-1880. 43 James Hector, “Publications”, Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Volume 12, 1879, p. 469.


The expansion of pastoral faming in New Zealand in the second half of the nineteenth century created a need for more information about the identity, distribution, spread, and forage value of grasses, both introduced and native. In 1876 Sir George Grey who became Prime Minister in the following year, obtained the approval of the House of Representatives for funds to be spent on the production of a book on the native grasses of New Zealand. In June of 1878 the first of three fascicles of 20 plates was published in Imperial Quarto size. In the preface, the Colonial Museum’s director, James Hector, explained that since the request had been for the grasses to be nature-printed and thus natural size, it had been “necessary to publish the work in a large size which is both inconvenient and expensive”.42 In the Museum’s Annual Report, Hector commented that the production was making good progress, “considering the difficulties to be contended with in bringing out such an extensive and laborious work. Parts I and II, comprising twenty-one folio plates were issued last year, and Parts III and IV are now ready for the binder. The letterpress of the remainder of the work is now in the printer’s hands, but some months will be required to complete the plates.”43 It would be another two years before the work was complete, with the second of 23 plates appeared in June 1879, and the third of 21 plates in 1880. Despite Hector’s impatience with the process, the length of time it took to illustrate all 87 species of grasses allowed inclusion of new species that were discovered during the volume’s preparation. The consolidated Imperial Quarto edition with an imprint that stated that it had been published by command finally appeared in 1880 as The Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand priced at a costly 3 guineas. Later that same year, a smaller more user-friendly version in Royal Octavo was published as the Manual of the Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand.. The Manual consists of all the plates in the Imperial Quarto edition together with a newly set letterpress and sold for a more affordable 7s 6d. The Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand was the first authoritative reference work on flora to be produced since the establishment of the Colonial Museum in Wellington in 1865. The arrangement of species of grasses followed the sequence established in the Handbook of the New Zealand Flora (1864) by the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Joseph Dalton Hooker, but otherwise the book was devised, written and illustrated by John Buchanan, the museum’s botanist and a talented artist. There is significance in the use of nature printing for the production of this publication in New Zealand at this time, which

John Buchanan (1819-1898), Dammarites corinata, Lower Cretaceous Formation, Shag Point, Otago, c.1864, watercolour, ink and pencil, 290 x 228mm, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 1992-0035-2279/75.


John Buchanan (1819-1898), Spinifex hirsutus, male, c.1878, lithograph on paper, 380 x 210 from The Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand, Wellington, Government Printer, 1878-1880, Plate VIII.


has implications for the technical development of Buchanan as its creator. Both art and science come together in the service of agriculture in Buchanan’s production of The Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand in 1878. Science was advanced by Buchanan achieving the greatest possible verisimilitude in the illustrations, yet there is exaggeration and ornamentation in his rendering suggesting that artistic interpretation also played a role. The book was envisaged as a practical manual for farmers as much as a scientific record for botanists. In the Preface written by Hector, it is explained that the book was originally planned to include “an essay on the grasses and forage plants likely to prove useful in New Zealand” and that this essay would be chosen from those submitted to a competition for which prizes would be awarded. However, it had been pointed out to George Grey who made this suggestion that until an illustrated work on grasses was published “many would be precluded from joining in the competition” because they would be unable to accurately identify many grass species. To this end of accurate identification, Hector instructed Buchanan not only to find out how he could adapt the technique of nature printing to illustrate the grasses natural size but also to prepare enlarged drawings of floral parts using microscope dissections. Buchanan was also asked to use his own skills as a descriptive botanist to prepare a brief text to accompany each plate. Fifty endemic, 18 indigenous, and 9 naturalised species appear in the publication, some of them under two names. As well as recording and describing indigenous species new to science the plates in the book made images of the grasses available to new colonists, particularly sheep and cattle farmers, who could then select appropriate ones to cultivate for pasture. With its high production values, and enthusiasm for the new species discovered, the Imperial Quarto edition, with 64 plates, and the smaller Royal Octavo edition met the practical agricultural needs of colonists for access to information on native grasses, but over-dramatized their possible future utilisation. Buchanan acquired the skills to adapt and apply the nature printing technique to the business of producing highly mimetic images of plants for the folios of the Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand not through his involvement in colonial art societies but through his scientific associations. His involvement in science, and particularly his background as a former student at the Mechanic’s Institute in Glasgow and member of the Athenaeum meant he was accustomed to acquiring new knowledge through receiving proceedings with summaries of delivered lectures. During the 1850s, a controversy raged in the publications he received over whether a German or Briton should receive credit for the development of nature printing techniques. Despite Buchanan’s interest in technical innovations in art and their ability


to advance the cause of scientific knowledge, he seems not to have created any botanical images using the nature printing technique prior to 1878. Buchanan’s introduction to the relatively new process of lithography does not seem to have occurred until he reached New Zealand. When lithography was first used in the Scottish textile industry in 1834, Buchanan would have been 15 years old and still serving his apprenticeship. This new method of flat printing for cloth would eventually render block cutting obsolete in textile manufacture in Britain and must have been used in Glasgow prior to 1851. Yet Buchanan does not seem to brought much experience with the process to his role as draughtsman at the Colonial Museum. In December 1868 when he was preparing the drawings for the first volume of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, his colleague, the scientist Richard Gore sent the first lithographic proofs to the Museum’s Director, James Hector with a note to say that these were Buchanan’s first attempts with the crayon. It is remarkable then that if he was self-taught in lithography, only ten years later he would be proficient enough with the process to adapt it to incorporate printing directly from the plant specimens themselves. The Indigenous Grasses would go on to win Buchanan a third order of merit certificate at the Melbourne Exhibition in 1880-81 in recognition of his ability with lithographic processes. Capturing the exact details of a plant or insect by printing directly from the natural object had been a goal of printers for hundreds of years prior to the midnineteenth century patenting of a technique called nature printing. Eighteenth century attempts to print using dried plants failed because the material was too fragile to withstand the press but in 1853 Alois Auer, Director of the Government Printing Office of Vienna, pioneered a new process based on printing methods from the textile industry again. He had become interested in how instead of sending out fragile and expensive samples to their customers, lacemakers had begun making prints of their lace to distribute. Auer’s copied their process which had involved passing the lace to be reproduced between a steel plate and a lead plate, through two rollers closely screwed together. The high pressure imbedded the lace into the lead plate leaving a very fine impression. From this negative plate with its impressed image, a “positive” plate would be cast as an “electrotype”. This had the outlines of the lace standing in relief above the general surface of the plate, forming the actual printing plate. Several colours could be applied individually, by hand, to appropriate areas of the plate and all colours printed together from one pull of the press. Auer patented his Naturselbstdruck method in 1852 but Henry Bradbury (eldest son of William Bradbury of London’s Bradbury and Evans who were Dickens’s publishers after 1843), had became familiar with Auer’s process while studying graphic arts in Vienna in 1850 and claimed credit for inventing it himself.


He introduced it into England in 1855, when his father’s firm used it for the fiftyone colour plates in T. Moore and J. Lindley’s folio The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland. Subsequently, Bradbury patented the process in Britain, resulting in an acrimonious conflict with Auer, ended by Bradbury committing suicide in 1860 at the age of 29 by drinking soda water laced with Prussic acid in Cremorne Gardens. Plant images produced by the nature printing method are characterised by their precise and detailed rendering of structures. This precision is one reason for the favouring of the technique for scientific purposes since botanists could use them to carry out comparative morphological studies. In addition, the use of nature-printing offered a solution to two kinds of problems encountered by botanists: the conservation of herbaria which were frequently destroyed by insects, and the production of images that were both accurate and affordable. It was picked up quickly for dissemination of images of new plants found in the colonies with the first example found for Australian plant material being a plate of Macadamia ternifolia illustrating Frederick von Mueller’s description of the species in 1858 and published in the Transactions of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria Volume 2 in 1858. Despite nature printing’s advantages, very few actual books were printed by this method during the nineteenth century. Botanical scholar Wilfred Blunt describes The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland as “the crowning achievement of nature printing” in terms of science and aesthetics, and describes how the technique was surpassed by photographic reproductions. The reason for the technique losing popularity after only twenty-five years was that while the method was highly accurate for depicting veins, it was of limited utility in depicting a living plant in three dimensions. Buchanan’s technique for the nature printing of The Indigenous Grasses is his own adaptation of the European process, possibly because of the difficulty of procuring zinc and lead for the intaglio process. There was even some delay in the preparation of the plates initially according to Hector “owing to the want of proper lithographic stones and other appliances” which could not be procured in the Colony”. In order to make his nature prints, Buchanan first pressed and dried the representative specimens of each type of grass then coated the grass with grease before pressing it to the surface of a smooth plate of limestone. As is customary in the lithographic process, the limestone plate was then moistened and then inked with Buchanan adding details by hand. The greasy imprint of each grass specimen accepted the ink but repelled the water with those parts of the stone that the grass had not touched accepting water and consequently repelling the ink. The resultant image was printed



John Buchanan (1819-1898), Southern Part of Lake Wakatipu looking south from the hills behind Queenstown, c.1863, watercolour on paper, 227 x 998mm, Hocken Pictures Collection, Dunedin, Acc.7,447. Exhibited at the New Zealand Exhibition, Dunedin, 1865 as Exhibit 876 (1) with the title “Panoramic View of Wakatipu Lake�.


on paper through a press, to create a black image on a white background. A second printing stone provided the tinted background of the published plate. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa holds a complete set of specimens used in the production of Buchanan’s book, as well as his drawings of the floral parts. Hector makes it clear in the Preface to the Manual that Buchanan was charged with collecting the grasses for the book himself, and that where the collectors were other botanists they had been acknowledged. Buchanan is clearly indebted to Alexander McKay for gatherings on the Mount Arthur Plateau and H.H. Travers of Wellington is frequently cited as a collector for the Tararua Range and for Nelson Province, but for the most part, the grasses are Buchanan’s own discoveries. This results in them now having the unusual dual status of being both type specimens and worked materials. Remains of the printer’s ink can be seen on most of them and they are mounted in a guard book referred to as “Buchanan’s printer’s set”. The pages bear the same titles as the plates and are in the order of the plates but there was no obligation on Buchanan’s part to ensure that the specimens and the illustrations corresponded in every positional detail, as the specimens could only be mounted after the nature-printing procedures had been completed. His obligation seems to have been to ensure that the plants he used in nature printing became the specimens mounted in the guard book. These same grasses now have the special status of holotypes, which is the term given to the type which establishes the name of a species or infraspecific taxon, or else they have the status of lectotype, a specimen designated as the nomenclatural type in the absence of a holotype. This is because for each of his newly defined taxa, Buchanan’s specimens, illustrations, distribution data, and commentaries established the standard example of the newly described species. The production of The Indigenous Grasses resulted in Buchanan making a lasting contribution to science, then, but what implications does the volume have for the understanding of the development of the art of scientific illustration in the nineteenth century? Given that John Buchanan was already prized as a scientific illustrator by his employers at the Colonial Museum, why was he required to use the technique of nature printing for the Indigneous Grasses, and does this compromise or enhance his reputation as an artist? The choice of nature printing can be seen to relate to the establishment of “objectivity” as the core principle of scientific research by the middle of the nineteenth century. Nature printing integrated several earlier ideals of artistic practice, among them the notion of “truth to nature”. Nineteenth century scientists were searching for an imaging technique which would overcome the limits posed by the subjectivity of the artist, and by the construction of


ideal types for botanical illustrations. Ironically, due to their precision and the values of authenticity and uniqueness which they embody, Buchanan’s images in the Indigenous Grasses have now moved from science to art. Yet ultimately nature prints—and their successor technology, photography - underscore the importance of the artist as an active intermediary. Buchanan had no affection for the nature printing technique, and never returned to it again in a career of scientific illustration that lasted until 1885. In his work in botanical illustration he relished the opportunity to include whatever parts of a plant were deemed important by the particular audience he envisaged. As an artist he worked to convey a generic three-dimensional structure by manipulating the form introducing twisted leave, colour and shadows and generalising featurs of each individual specimen. His nature prints are flat and impoverished by comparison. Both to nineteenth-century commentators on these techniques and to us, the simulacrum that is the botanical drawing carries more conviction, and is more “real”, than an impression of the thing itself, in terms of its value as a complete picture.

44 John Buchanan, “The two theories: Evolution or Creation”, A Paper Read Before the Auckland Institute, 23 August 1886, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Archives. MU000156/001/0021.

Buchanan’s responses to Darwinian theories

Two unpublished papers read before the Auckland Philosophical Institute in 1885 and 1886 constitute Buchanan’s formal written responses to Darwin. He travelled to Auckland to give the first paper June 1885, the same month he retired from government service. It was coyly titled “Evolution and its Relation to Scientific Thought” and pointed up perceived failures of inductive reasoning in Darwin’s argument for evolution. Then fourteen months later in “The Two Theories: Evolution or Creation” he specifically criticised the conclusions drawn from the observation of variation in species, turning the tables on evolutionists by accusing them of blind faith in an unproven dogma: Who could refrain from admiring that wonderful power which enabled the same plant to assume the form of Savoy and red cabbage” he asked rhetorically. 44 In Buchanan’s view, variation is there to be admired but does not in itself support the idea of natural selection. He continued on, “While all scientists are impressed with such remarkable facts, those of the Darwinian school deduce from them the doctrine of evolution. The opponent of that doctrine desiderates evidence, but the evolutionist rebukes his incredulity by the sublimity of his own faith.” Buchanan’s arguments in his papers were directed against the scientific naturalism of Darwin, John Tyndall and T H Huxley. He couldn’t accept the


John Buchanan (1819-1898), Illustration for James Hector’s Fossil Flora, Liassic Formation, Clent Hills, c.1864, watercolour, ink and pencil, 212 x 117mm, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 1992-0035-2279/80.


idea of human descent from apes or protoplasm as the physical basis of life but most of all it was the materialism of these explanations that upset him. Darwin, Huxley and Tyndall tried to remove the soul from nature and man alike, and they explained every conceivable natural phenomenon as the result of physical causes. More specifically and ominously for Buchanan, scientific naturalism claimed to account for aesthetics itself. In his first paper he argued against the theory of evolution as an unsound scientific hypothesis: He then went on to identify a moral thread in the arguments Darwin: “we find that his ingenuity so far transcends his judgement as to enable him to discern that evolution is a moral process that if a beast were to retrograde it would be bad and if it were to progress it would be good in a moral sense: in other words that when a nautilus becomes a barnacle it is to be condemned and when the monkey evolves into a man it is highly meritorious.” 45 Clearly such moral deductions were abhorrent to Buchanan. In his analysis of Darwin, the analogy between natural selection and the artificial selection practised by humans on domesticated animals implied that Nature does the selecting. In that case, Buchanan argues, natural selection was not replacing the teleology of the design argument but merely substituting an abstract concept, “Nature”, for the Deity. For Buchanan, the aesthetic, the scientific and the ideological were inextricably connected. In his second paper, “The Two Theories: Evolution or Creation” he deduced that man as a species could not be related to other animals because of both his social behaviour and the aesthetic superiority of the human form, concluding “In considering Professor Huxley’s Man’s Place in Nature …one impression remains after considering his argument. The surpassing beauty of the human form, the matchless formative power of the hand, the lordliness of his bearing, his gift of articulation, his social instincts, together with his religious beliefs will constitute him a standing protest against any form of evolution which would connect him by descent with the most specialised, or most admirable, animal known to mankind.”44 An autodidact with strong belief in the importance of education, Buchanan sought to uphold the concept of freedom of information by arguing that Darwinist theory should be kept out of schools. In New Zealand, the 1877 Education Act had sought to overcome religious dogma by establishing a free, secular, and compulsory system of state schools, he wrote. All of this enlightenment could be undone by the prescription of a single book the Science Primer of Botany published in 1876 by Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker : “I venture to pronounce the introduction of such a school book as an arbitrary interference with the rights of conscience, and as distinctly foreign to the spirit of our educational system” he concluded in his 1886 paper.

45 John Buchanan, “Evolution and its Relation to Scientific Thought”, read with the title “Objections to the Theory of Evolution” before the Auckland Institute June 29 1885 (with this title it is listed in Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 1868-1961, Vol.18, 1885, p.420 but not reproduced.) Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Archives. MU000156/001/0020.


46 See John Stenhouse, “Darwinism in New Zealand” in Ronald L. Numbers and John Stenhouse [eds.], Disseminating Darwinism: The Role of Place, Race, Religion and Gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp.61-89.


Despite a close friendship with James Hector for whom he had worked for 22 years and who edited and published the Transactions in his role as President of the New Zealand Institute, Buchanan could not get his papers on evolution into print. Nor were they suitable for Wellington audiences it would seem. Hector was only interested in publishing empirical natural history which his British contemporaries considered of “permanent value”. Additionally, Hector himself was a powerful advocate for Darwin’s theories of natural selection and was in a position of being able to prevent anti-Darwinist writing from gaining adherents by suppressing it. Buchanan’s promotion of intelligent design as an alternative to Darwin’s natural selection was a doomed project. By 1885 the main scientific, education and religious institutions in New Zealand had integrated evolution into their views of the world.45 Yet, while Buchanan’s arguments were out of step with other New Zealand scientists, he shared his resistance to Darwinism with one of the most popular and influential writers of the Victorian period, the art critic John Ruskin. Ruskin had argued in Modern Painters (1843) that art should devote itself to the accurate documentation of nature, endearing himself to natural history illustrators everywhere. A frequent commentator on science throughout his career, Ruskin wrote books on ornithology (Love’s Meinie, 1872-81) botany (Proserpina 1875-86) and geology (Deucalion 1875-83). For Ruskin, the study of nature for scientific purposes, properly pursued, was complementary to the properly pursued study of nature for artistic purposes. Ruskin’s approach integrated art and science by stressing the moral health of the relationship between the observer, whether artist or scientist, and nature. By faithfully representing what he sees, rather than what he knows or thinks is there, the scientist, like the artist, is open to the spiritual, moral, religious truths that nature reveals. The “objectivity” of scientists who investigate nature by focusing only on physical facts and physical causes is wrong-headed and barren, and often not objective at all. Like artists, scientists must aim higher than a merely material understanding of nature. Ruskin had a considerable influence on Buchanan’s thinking and was perhaps the catalyst for his writing against evolution. 1886, the year when Buchanan wrote his second paper, was the year that John Ruskin published Proserpina: Studies of Wayside Flowers while the Air was Yet Pure among the Alps and in the Scotland and England Which My Father Knew where Ruskin acknowledged “the speculations of modern science on the relation of colour in flowers to insects and selective development” but concluded that “it is only part, and a comparatively unimportant part, of what we need to know about colour in flowers”. Darwin had of course naturalised the existence of colour in flowers by

John Buchanan (1819-1898), Ranunculus lyalli c.1865, watercolour on paper, 169 x 75mm, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, E 207-q-039.


arguing that colour was an evolutionary adaptation for attracting insects to ensure cross-pollination. Ruskin’s exhortation to consider species in terms of their aesthetic rather than their genealogical relations appealed to Buchanan as a direct challenge to Darwin’s evolutionary explanation of beauty, and accorded with his own observations of colour and the visual in nature. Buchanan recorded his attraction to the sensibility in Ruskin’s writing in his second paper Creation or Evolution?, declaring that “John Ruskin’s productions prove him one of the greatest poets of the age”. Counter to Ruskin, Darwin had even naturalised the human aesthetic sense in The Descent of Man, making the human notion of beauty an evolutionary inheritance from animals. This was anathema to Buchanan, for whom beauty was a divine gift to brighten our days rather than a utilitarian trait generated by and for evolutionary survival. Buchanan’s botanical illustration emphasised morphology as a basis for taxonomy, giving prominence to a display of the flower and its sexual organs as the basis for classification. However, there is evidence of his awareness of the “natural system” of Jussieu and de Candolle where the focus is on the whole plant, reducing the flower to one aspect amongst many. Significantly, Buchanan always depicts his plants in isolation, without reference to habitat. By the middle of the nineteenth century, scientific botany generally employed, often on the same plate, two different styles of illustration: the illusionistic pictorial” and the “outline schematic” as Gill Saunders calls them in Picturing Plants. In the former approach, the main illustration of the plant or flower was often accompanied by smaller images (sometimes actual size, sometimes magnified) of isolated parts or microscopic details. In the latter, the plant was schematised as a diagram. Buchanan adapts both styles for different contexts, isolating the specimen on the page and giving no sense of habitus or surrounding Nature. In conclusion then, it seems that following Ruskin, John Buchanan wrote his papers on evolution and assembled his scrapbooks of natural history in order to educate his fellow New Zealanders in the appreciation and understanding of natural beauty that hinged on moral rather than physical connections. His approach was quickly superseded by growing scientific specialisation in New Zealand. Even before Buchanan had died, expert ornithologist Sir Walter Buller was publishing articles on birds in the Transactions specifically as illustrations of Darwinism.


Unknown photographer, Colonial Museum staff, John Buchanan seated on left, Hector standing at right, 150 x 190mm, Toitu¯ : Otago Settlers’ Museum, Dunedin, 1949.42.2, p.73.


Acknowledgements Many individuals and institutions have assisted with the preparation of this exhibition and catalogue including: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington: Joan McCracken and Marian Minson. Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, Auckland: Marcus Boroughs, Pia Gahagan, Diane Gordon, Karen Mason, Carla Purdue, David Reeves, Julie Senior. Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Lower Hutt: Margaret Low and Simon Nathan. Hocken Library, Dunedin: Anna Blackman, Sharon Dell, Victoria France, Anna Petersen, Natalie Poland, Sarah Snelling. Landcare Research Manaaki Whenua, Dunedin: David Galloway. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington: Victoria Boyack, Patrick Brownsey, James Kirk, Antony Kusabs, Martin Lewis, Tony Mackle, Vicki Robson, Jo Torr, Jennifer Twist. Otago Museum, Dunedin: Catherine Gadd, Lucy Rowe, Clare Wilson. The University of Auckland, Auckland: Ruth Barton, Leonard Bell, Jemma Field, Sam Hartnett, Elizabeth Rankin, Alice Tyler, Caroline Vercoe. The University of Otago, Dunedin: Tom Brooking, Donald Kerr, Erika Wolf, D Wood. Toitu¯ : Otago Settlers’ Museum, Dunedin: Nicola Gibbons, Jill Haley, Linda Wigley. I am especially grateful to Lynette Gernhoefer, Linda Harvey, Nonnita Rees and Judy Russell for the residency at the Robert Lord Writers’ Cottage from 1 August to 1 February 2012, and to Margery and Gary Blackman for their hospitality during this period. I would also like to acknowledge Kay Flavell and Aratoi: the Wairarapa Museum of Art and History for the accommodation at New Pacific Studio in the Wairarapa during February 2012.


Published on the occasion of the exhibition Art in the Service of Science: Dunedin’s John Buchanan 1819-1898 at the Hocken Library, Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand, 22 November 2012– 9 February 2013. Research for this exhibition was assisted by a grant from the Faculty Research and Development Fund of the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries at The University of Auckland. Design: Aaron Beehre, The University of Canterbury, Christchurch. ISBN 978-0-9876548-6-1 Dedicated to the memory of the outstanding botanical artist and Buchanan biographer, Nancy Adams CBE QSO, 1926-2007.

Profile for Linda Tyler

Art in the service of science: Dunedin's John Buchanan  

A fifty-two page publication outlining the background and professional career of botanist and illustrator John Buchanan FLS 1819-1898

Art in the service of science: Dunedin's John Buchanan  

A fifty-two page publication outlining the background and professional career of botanist and illustrator John Buchanan FLS 1819-1898

Profile for lyus27