In 1849 an influential group of subscribers came together under the care of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) to sponsor a plant-hunter, John Jeffrey, and support his ambitious expedition to North America in 1850. But after his mysterious disappearance, just four years later, he was soon all-but-forgotten. I’m delighted to announce that the little-known exploits of John Jeffrey will be celebrated in public for the first time, fittingly in a new collaboration with RBGE.
John Jeffrey is the protagonist in my latest book GREEN GOLD; a biographical fiction novel. I spent two years researching the archives of RBGE, reading letters, plant labels and a minute book of the expedition’s co-ordinating body the Oregon Botanical Association. Jeffrey was contracted to write detailed journals recording his explorations, but they were never discovered. In GREEN GOLD I merge fact with fiction, in the form of his journals which I have imagined.
Jeffrey sent seeds from 119 plant species home to Edinburgh, and more than 400 specimens were received by the Herbarium at RBGE, including seeds and/or specimens of 35 conifer species. Despite this, Jeffrey never earned the recognition of other plant collectors such as David Douglas or William Lobb.
Together with RBGE I am planning a programme of activities to coincide with the publication of GREEN GOLD, including:
- A book launch at RBGE in early 2018 (date dependent on how quickly the book gets funded).
- We will offer a guided walk, myself together with a senior member of staff from RGBE.
- We are organising an exhibition at the John Hope Gateway where we will display archival materials, alongside herbarium specimens.
Some pledge levels (‘Prospector’ and above) offer personal invitations to these events – read more at unbound.com/books/green-gold.
Finally, I am discussing an exciting collaboration with a botanical artist linked to RBGE. I will write more news on this soon.
GREEN GOLD will be published by UNBOUND, a specialist crowd-funding publisher, if fundraising is successful. Please consider pledging your support. Find out more at: unbound.com/books/green-gold