By Lesley Brook | Posted: Monday August 10, 2020
A special book in a box celebrates botanist Daniel Solander's contribution to New Zealand's history.
Swedish botanist Daniel Solander accompanied Joseph Banks on Captain James Cook's first expedition to the Pacific, and Solander subsequently wrote an unpublished manuscript describing all the New Zealand plant species collected here during a six month period. To commemorate Solander, the 250th anniversary was marked in 2019 by an art exhibition, Paradise Lost, organised by Solander Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in Wellington, and project partner Embassy of Sweden in Canberra.
One of the 10 artists selected was Dunedin printmaker and Otago Polytechnic lecturer Lynn Taylor. Her research into Solander, the New Zealand plants he studied, and preservation and printing methods from that era, resulted in a limited edition artist's book, Solander's Signatures. Its pages come together to form a visual and tactile narrative honouring Solander's work.
Lynn collaborated with Otago Polytechnic senior lecturer and designer Chris Fersterer to solve the problems of protecting and displaying the book. The result was an innovative dual-purpose casing which Chris constructed from bamboo ply. Chris' box is simple yet the experience of unpacking the book contributes to the sense that it is precious. Producing a box for the book was very appropriate; Solander's other claim to fame was his invention of the Solander box, which is still used to store archival materials.
The exhibition of Solander-inspired art works has toured selected venues in Australia and New Zealand, and also Solander's birthplace in Sweden. Lynn's and Chris' collaboration was also included in an exhibition in Finland.