By August 2012, the Annals of Botany had been published without a break for 125 years. In that time it has become not only the world’s oldest continuously published botanical title but one that has retained a high international standing despite the emergence of numerous popular and well-run competitors. A recent article in the journal is the first of two that, together, look back over the Journal’s long history.
The article describes how the Annals of Botany first came into being in 1887 and the evolution of its editorship and management over the 50 years to 1937. These developments are described in terms of the people involved, how they organized the starting of the Journal and how they ran and financed it on a not-for-profit basis. The article pays particular attention to the lives of the nine remarkable and mostly rather grand individuals who founded the Journal and who, for the most part, came from privileged backgrounds. Despite being a youthful group (all but one were under 40), most were already establishment figures by 1887, e.g. Fellows of the Royal Society (FRS) or directors/professors of prestigious establishments, while the others were soon to become so. The article also outlines the academic environment which allowed the founders and their vision of modern botanical science to prosper, and describes a notable clash of personalities that almost brought the Journal down after only 12 years. In addition, accounts are given of the creation of the ‘Annals of Botany Company’, the effects on the Journal of the First World War and its aftermath, and how the Journal’s managers looked to the future by planning a ‘New Series’ starting 50 years after its foundation.