Victorian Seaweed & Algae Scrapbook

  • A mid-Victorian American seaweed and algae scrapbook containing fourteen specimens. Seaweed collecting was, together with other types of scrapbooking, a popular occupation for young women during the Victorian era. Inspired in part by the Romantic Movement's reverence for nature, it was considered a wholesome way for women to engage with the outdoors, and it also functioned as a social accomplishment indicating one's suitability for marriage and family life.

    Nature was at the centre of the Victorian domestic imagination, and “one reason for the appearance of various representations of the natural world in the parlour… was a continuing apprehension of the world as beautiful – or at least a continuing prestige attached to those who were sensible of that beauty” (Logan, The Victorian Parlour, p. 142). Nature was inextricably tied to religious and moral edification, with amateur collectors “drawn to the study of the natural world as a culturally approved form of recreation… seen as aesthetically pleasing, educational and morally beneficial, since [nature] lifted the mind to a new appreciation of God” (Logan, p. 144). “Queen Victoria as a young girl made a seaweed album; later in the century, materials for such an album could be purchased at seaside shops like that of Mary Wyatt in Torquay, who specialized in natural souvenirs” (Logan, p. 124).

    “In the late 19th Century, the books Sea Mosses: A Collector's Guide and An Introduction to the Study of Marine Algae by A. B. Hervey outlined how to properly press and mount various types of algae. The tools needed are a pair of pliers, scissors, a stick with a needle in the end, at least two ‘wash bowls,’ botanist's ‘drying paper,’ or some kind of blotting paper, cotton cloth, and finally cards to mount the specimens on. Pliers and scissors are used to handle the specimens and cut away any extraneous, ‘superfluous’ branches, and the needle is used like a pencil so that the plant can be moved around with relative ease to show the finer details… The drying and pressing process consists of layering the mounting papers with various types of blotting cloth and additional paper topped with weights; in this case the weights suggested by Hervey are 50 lbs. worth of rocks found by the seashore. Most seaweed in this case will adhere to the mounting board via gelatinous materials emitted from the plant itself” (Harvard University, Mary A. Robinson online exhibition).

  • Tall quarto (275 x 205 mm). Original marbled boards, black cloth backstrip ruled in gilt. 10 leaves, 14 seaweed and algae samples mounted on cards inserted into slits in the leaves. Contemporary gift inscription dated 1865 to front free endpaper. Ends of spine chipped, boards rubbed and scuffed, corners and edges of boards worn, some spotting, offsetting, and occasional chipping of specimens. Good condition.

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