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Sydney Parkinson

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The artist’s impressions

Despite his early death, Sydney Parkinson made a great contribution to the records of the Endeavour voyage, being the first European artist to create drawings of Australia’s indigenous people, as well as Australian landscapes, from direct observation.

Hundreds of his drawings survive in the British Museum. He is famous for his botanical illustrations, which were later used to create the lavish plates for Joseph Banks’ Florilegium, a collection of engravings of plants collected by Banks and Daniels Solander during the Endeavour’s first voyage.

Parkinson was one of the casualties of sea life mentioned by James Roberts, dying of dysentery in January 1771 on board the Endeavour. His works later became the subject of a dispute between Joseph Banks and Sydney’s brother, Stanfield Parkinson. As his employer, Banks claimed rights to Sydney’s drawings, papers and collections made on the voyage. Stanfield, however, alleged that Sydney had willed them to his family.

"Draughtsman - Died at Sea 26 Feby. 1771 Fever and Ague"

Banks lent the Parkinson family Sydney’s journal and drawings with instructions that they were not to be published, but Stanfield disregarded this and arranged for A Journal of a voyage to the South Seas to be printed from his brother’s account of the voyage. Banks managed to suppress Stanfield’s publication until the official account of the voyage, edited by John Hawkesworth, appeared. In return for Parkinson’s papers, Banks paid Stanfield Parkinson £500 for balance of wages due to Sydney, but the dispute did not end there. Stanfield further accused Banks of retaining items collected by Sydney that were intended for his relatives. Stanfield Parkinson was declared insane soon after the publication of Sydney Parkinson’s Journal and died in an asylum.

The hand-coloured plates below are from the 1784 edition of Sydney Parkinson’s Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas. By this time, the rights to the journal had been acquired by naturalist John Fothergill, who supplied a preface responding to the accusations made by Stanfield Parkinson towards Joseph Banks in previous editions.

View the complete colour plates in Parkinson’s Journal via the Library’s catalogue

Man sitting at desk with paper and writing instrument and a piece of a tree
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander around the world / embellished
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
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Digital ID: 
a039001
Old map of the world with Australia noted as being New Holland title at top of map says Eastern Hemisphere
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander around the world - Map
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784.
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
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Digital ID: 
a039004
Painting from journal on view of a village with trees and people noted view of a village in the Bay of Good Success in the Island of Terra del Fuego
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander around the world - Village
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784.
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771.
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a039006
Old drawing of man in native clothing in journal noted A native of Otaheite in the dress of his country
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander around the world / embellished
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771.
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a039007
2 men sitting enjoying a drink under a Palm tree near a plantation on journal drawing noting House and Plantation of Chief of the Island Otaheite
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander around the world / embellished
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784.
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a039010
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander around the world / embellished
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a039013
Large tree with person sitting underneath with burial place nearby drawn in journal - A morai, or burial place in the island of Yoolee = Etea
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander - Burial place
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
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Digital ID: 
a039014
drawing in journal of various instruments and utensils of Natives of Otaheite and the adjacent islands
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander around the world - instruments
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771.
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Digital ID: 
a039017
Man dressed in traditional clothing picture drawing in journal noted A New Zealand warrior in his proper Dress and completely armed, according to their manner.
journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander - New Zealand Warrior
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a039019
Man with tattooed markings on face in traditional dress drawn in journal noting - the head of a chief of New Zealand, the face curiously tattooed or marked according to their manner
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander - New Zealand Chief
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a039020
Drawing in journal of men rowing in water in a long war canoe
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander - a war canoe of New Zealand
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a039022
Painting in journal of a view of arched rock with river running under it with people nearby and trees
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander - arched rock
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a039024
painted drawing in journal of mountains and water with mast ship in the water
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander - View of peak
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
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Digital ID: 
a039026
old map in journal page of cast of new zealand
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander - Map of New Zealand
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771.
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Digital ID: 
a039029
drawing in journal noted various instruments and utensils of New Zealand, Terra del Fuego and New Holland
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander - utensils and instruments
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a039030
Journal drawing depiction of two men noted - two of the natives of New Holland advancing to combat
A journal of a voyage to the South Seas : in His Majesty's ship, the Endeavour : faithfully transcribed from the papers of the last Sydney Parkinson, draughtsman to Joseph Banks, esq. on his late expedition with Dr. Solander - Natives of New Holland
London : printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784
Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771.
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a039031

This story has been developed with the support of the State Library of NSW Foundation.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Bruce and Joy Reid Foundation.