Plymouth, Llandudno, Worthing, Penmaen Mawr and Dunoon: 1852-1858. Large 4to. 29 sheets of mounted sea-weeds, consisting of approximately 80 specimens. Each page with manuscript captions giving dates (1852-1858) and places of collection, including Plymouth and Worthing (England), Llandudno and Penmaenmawr (Wales) and Dunoon (Scotland). In some instances the seaweed specimens have been arranged decoratively. A contemporary manuscript poem (by E.L. Aveline?) has been penned to a front page: "Call us not weeds / We are flowers of the sea / For lovely and bright / And gay tinted are we..." Housed in a superb contemporary album of straight-grained mahogony morocco, with folding flap to the fore-edge, secured to the rear board with a metal pin and clasp (lock no longer functional), extensive gilt and blind stamped decoration to the boards and flap. The album opens to reveal full pockets to front and back with leather gusseted sides, each pocketed faced with navy blue straight-grained morocco; the flap also lined internally with the same; marbled free endpapers. Binding very good, lightly rubbed with a few small, professional and inconspicuous repairs to the head/tail of the spine and flap. The specimens are generally in a very good state of preservation. Six blank leaves at end clearly discern the watermark (Britannia) and the name of the papermaker, Joynson (of Orpington). Item #2729
Highly curious, lavishly bound Victorian herbarium album, containing actual aquatic specimens. Such an album as this can only be described as a mid-19th century "Wunderkammer" -- or more accurately: a "florilegium of the sea." A true cabinet of curiosities in book form, the present album is important for the study of Botany, while being a striking example of the most extreme form of "Nature Printing."
¶ "The Victorian period had particular flourish for domesticating the wildness out of nature. From taxidermy animals contorted into a controlled version of ferocity to pressing flowers into collectible objects, there was both a mix of fascination with flora and fauna as well as a desire to form the natural world into a vision of refinement. Yet while some young ladies delighted in clipping flowers and pressing them in books, others scraped up seaweed and kept the specimens in elegant scrapbooks." (Source: AtlasObscura, online).
Collections of natural curiosities flourished from the 16th century onward. These collections included strange and rare plants (terrestrial and aquatic) from all over the globe. "At first these collections were formed by physicians and natural philosophers with a passion for collecting, but also with the desire to have a professional collection useful for research. Such collections also played a social role: they enabled collectors to build their reputations and create professional networks not just through publishing, but also through visits and the exchange of objects" (NYAM exhibition "Collecting Curiosities: The Rise of the Medical Museum").
While Victorian Herbarium albums are not uncommon, they are rarely found in such a lavishly bound portfolio, as here. Although the binder has not yet been identified, there is a small booklabel inside front flap: Turnbull's 389 Exchange, Cheltenham, no doubt the original vendor of the (originally blank) portfolio. "Griffith's New Historical Description of Cheltenham and its Vicinity" (1826), p. 81, described Turnbull's as "constantly supplied with every description of fancy goods, hosiery, gloves, unbrellas, etc." Indeed, the present album would have been placed among the fanciest of the "fancy goods" in the store.