Large Folio Volume
1847 - Early Seaweed Collection - England
Large Three-Dimensional Specimens from Resort Town St. Leonards-on-Sea
[ 1847 - 1849 ]
St Leonards-on-Sea, England, 1847-1849. Substantial collection of 123 ocean botanical specimens, gathered by an unidentified English nineteenth century phycology enthusiast, neatly organized into three sections, Melanospermeae, Rhodospermeae, Chlorospermeae, and accompanied by a manuscript index card. Includes over 75 specimens carefully mounted into a large album and captioned in manuscript with scientific names, as well as 48 additional specimens mounted onto individual leafs placed within the same volume. (A scant few specimens, mostly on the individual leafs, were collected in Tenby, Wales, in 1853. One is captioned New Holland, the former name for Australia.) Folio. Purpose made volume, half burgundy morocco over brown marbled boards, "Sea-Weeds" titled in gilt to spine. Volume measures approximately 28 x 45 cm. Specimens vary greatly in size, the smallest measuring approximately 2 x 2 cm, and the largest spanning approximately 42 x 20 cm.
A large volume houses this fine herbarium of over 100 impressive marine species, large and small benthic macroalgae mostly growing in the English Channel, some having been discovered not long before, the lot skillfully harvested by a nineteenth century botanist who sometimes managed to extract even the root system intact.
The collector is unknown, though the volume possesses some evidence that he was well-travelled and presumably well-off. Many seaweed specimens gathered at St Leonards-on-Sea are dated November and December 1848, when the town was primarily a seaside resort for the wealthy. A few specimens placed separately in the volume were gathered in 1853 off the shoreline of Tenby, another spa resort town in Wales. And, possibly most interesting of all, is a vibrant sample of Gigartina speciosa, which was discovered in Western Australia in 1845, which is mounted to a leaf embossed 'Bath'.
Melanospermeae (olive seaweeds), Rhodospermeae (red spore seaweeds), and Chlorospermeae (green seaweeds), are the three categories by which the preserved seaweeds are presented. The collector had clear intent for his work, labeling pages with tipped-in headings prior to embarking on his search for obscure, desirable, and little-known genera. As opposed to the random gatherings of a hobbyist, his findings are systematically organized, the album being laid out with a plan. A manuscript list also names a few "desirable plants to procure seeds of."
The collection begins with an enormous leaf of Fucoideae Cystoseira, also known as bullwhip kelp, followed shortly thereafter by a large and beautifully defined Halidrys siliquosa or Sea Oak (H.C. Lyngbye, 1819). A large mauve-black Fucus vesiculosus is also beautifully intact with dramatic spherical air bladders. Better known as bladder wrack, it was discovered in 1811 and was the original source of iodine, once used extensively to treat goiter. Other varieties from the Fucales order of brown algae follow, including the Fucus serratus or the Toothed Wrack. Yet more in the so-called 'olive' category include the fine translucent pale green Laminaria Phyllitis, the Desmarestia, the Dictyoteae, the Chorda filum commonly called Sea Lace, and the complex Ectocarpus varieties.
The red seaweeds section "Tribe II - Rhodospermeae" renders 21 unique genera for observation. Colourful, delicate, and enticing, some of these include unique varieties of Delessaria, a Nitophyllum laceratum (S.G. Gmelin) juxtaposed against a Nitophyllum Gmelini, the Rhodymenia palmata (Greville 1830) commonly known as dulse, the Chylocladia articulata, the striking dense and tufted Polysiphonia, the Polysiphonia elongata, and other from this genus of filamentous red algae which is known now to have about 19 species on the coasts of the British Isles. Of special interest is a page with samples of three types of the holotype species Griffithsia which was named in honour of the discoverer, pioneering female phycologist from North Devon, Amelia Warren Griffiths (1768-1858).
Finally, the third section yields the delicate and bright green Ulva or sea lettuce, three Conferva, a spectacular example of coldwater Porphyra laciniata which has a textural appearance of vellum, and a few little enteromorpha.
The collector's captions frequently note a page reference to a volume titled 'Marine Botany' and also indicate specimens described by 'Sowerby' the latter being English naturalist and botanist James Sowerby (1757-1822) who published and illustrated the enormous multi-volume work "English Botany" that was issued between 1790 and 1813.
This is a very large volume measuring 28 x 45 cm and featuring numerous large seaweed specimens.
Seaweed is a loose colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multi-cellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae. A seaweed may belong to one of several groups of multi-cellular algae: the red algae, green algae, and brown algae. As these three groups are not thought to have a common multicellular ancestor, the seaweeds are a polyphyletic group. In addition, some tuft-forming bluegreen algae (Cyanobacteria) are sometimes considered to be seaweeds.
Phycology is the scientific study of algae. The branch of life science is often regarded as a subdiscipline of botany. Algae are important plants as primary producers in aquatic ecosystems. Most algae are eukaryotic, photosynthetic organisms that live in a wet environment. They are distinguished from the higher plants by a lack of true roots, stems or leaves. Many species are single-celled and microscopic, including phytoplankton and other microalgae. Others are multi-cellular to one degree or another, some of these growing to large size (for example, seaweeds such as kelp and Sargassum).
St Leonards-on-Sea (commonly known as St Leonards) has been part of Hastings, East Sussex, England, since the late 19th century though it retains a sense of separate identity. It lies to the west of central Hastings. The original part of the settlement was laid out in the early 19th century as a new town: a place of elegant houses designed for the well-off; it also included a central public garden, a hotel, an archery, assembly rooms and a church. The land that is now St Leonards was once owned by the Levett family, an ancient Sussex gentry family of Norman origin. James Burton, a successful London architect who had developed large areas of Bloomsbury and the houses around Regent's Park, purchased land from the Eversfield estate to put into being his concept of a seaside resort. The land was part of Gensing Farm, and included a small wooded valley leading down to the sea. Work on the plan started in early 1826. Before he died in 1837 St Leonards (Royal Victoria) Hotel, the South Colonnade, an archway marking the town boundary with Hastings, and tall seafront houses (as far as 71 Marina) had also been completed. In 1850 his son Decimus started the second phase of building, by acquiring more land and extending the development westward. Today's St Leonards has extended well beyond that original design, although the original town still exists within it.
Minor wear to boards, occasional creasing to album leafs, otherwise in very good condition, specimens retaining vivid colour and form, a noteworthy seaweed herbarium.