Sir Hans Sloane's herbarium, housed at the Natural History Museum in London, is probably the most extensive herbarium collection dating from the Early Modern period. Assembled between the 1680s and 1750s, it comprises 337 Horti Sicci and an estimated 120,000 pressed plant specimens. More than 300 people contributed to its development and over seventy countries and dependencies across the globe are represented in it.
The Sloane Herbarium exemplifies the rich history of exploration and discovery in the period preceding Cook's voyages. Its importance was fully recognised by Sloane's contemporaries and it remains of considerable scientific as well as historical value today.
Despite its name, the Sloane Herbarium was not the result of one person's collecting efforts. It is, in effect, a collection of collections. The contributors to what we refer to as the Sloane herbarium, include owners who accumulated large collections such as Courten and Petiver, that were acquired by Sloane. It also includes the collections assembled by botanists such as Plukenet, Buddle, Doody and Miller; the collections of gardeners, such as the Duchess of Beaufort and of sailors and those stationed overseas such as Samuel Browne, Edward Bulkley, James Cuninghame and Georg Kamel.
Mark Carine is a curator of the Sloane herbarium and other pre-Linnean collections in the Algae, Fungi and Plants Division at the Natural History Museum, London.