Ref NoMS/137
TitleDrawings of trees - William Swainson
AdminHistoryWilliam John Swainson (1789-1855), was an English ornithologist, malacologist, conchologist, entomologist and artist. Swainson was a member of many learned societies, including the Linnean Society (1816), the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh, and the Royal Society (1820).

Swainson was born on 8 October 1789 in Dover Place, St Mary Newington, London, the eldest son of John Timothy Swainson, an original fellow of the Linnean Society. He was cousin of the amateur botanist Isaac Swainson. His father's family originated in Lancashire, and both grandfather and father held high posts in Her Majesty's Customs, the father becoming Collector at Liverpool. Swainson's formal education was impeded because he had a speech difficulty, but despite this he got his education at Lancaster Grammar School. He first chose to join the Liverpool Customs when he was 15 where he was a junior clerk. After that, he became a member of the Army Commissariat, and during that time he was able to tour Sicily and Malta. In 1815 he was forced to return to England due to ill health where he subsequently retired on half pay.

Swainson had a keen interest in exploration and documenting nature and in 1806 he went to accompany Henry Koster, a British explorer who was then going to Brazil. Koster stayed in Brazil and became famous for his published book called Travels in Brazil. During Swainson's time there, he also had the chance to meet Dr. Grigori Ivanovitch Langsdorff who was one of the consul generals of Russia who had also been exploring Brazil when Swainson was there. Although he did not spend much time there because of the revolution, he went back to the UK with more than 20,000 insect samples, 1,200 plant species, 760 different bird skins, and more than a hundred drawings of many different fish species for which he became known for. His other explorations happened in Italy and Greece which allowed him to further his knowledge and specimen collection on fish and flowers of the Mediterranean.

Swainson had two wives, the first one being Mary Parkes whom he married in 1823. They had four sons and one daughter. Mary died in 1835. Five years later, Swainson remarried. The second marriage was in 1840 and this was to Ann Grasby. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1841 where he became involved in property as well as the New Zealand Company and the Church of England committee for the appointment of a bishop to New Zealand. In 1851 Swainson sailed to Sydney and took the post of Botanical Surveyor in 1852 with the Victoria Government, after being invited by the Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe to study local trees. He had studied the flora of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania before his return to New Zealand in 1854 to live at Fern Grove in the Hutt, where he died the following year, on 6 December 1855.
DescriptionComprised five pencil drawings of trees (three with mounts) thought to be by William Swainson following his retirement to New Zealand in 1841. Drawings are labelled as follows:

- "Rata" dated 1845 (includes a seated figure wearing a hat)
- "Hutt Forest N.Z., W.S. 1846" (includes a seated figure wearing a hat)
-"Road thro' Hutt Forest near Hawkshead N.Z., W.S." (includes a walking figure)
- "Mamica Tree - Leptospermum - ? Paitanui Porirua Harbour, N.Z. , 22 March 1849" (includes a seated figure)
- Tree trunk, unlabelled and unsigned

On the reverse of one drawing there is the following note: 'Drawings by Wm [William] Swainson my grand uncle in New Zealand' and a loose note stating: 'Drawings by William Swainson F.R.S. the naturalist (my grand uncle) after his retirement to New Zealand'.
Date1845 - 1849
Extent1 file
Creator NameSwainson, William
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