A lovely 19th-century seaweed and sea moss scrapbook in an elaborate and uncommon purpose-made album.
Seaweed collecting was, together with other types of scrapbooking, a popular occupation for young women during the Victorian era. Inspired by the Romantic Movement's reverence for nature, it was considered a wholesome and educational way for women to engage with the outdoors. Like playing an instrument, painting, or embroidery, it also indicated 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).
Indeed, the present album is an excellent example of the types of purpose-made albums sold to collectors. This example, which may have originally been intended for land mosses and flowers, is very pretty, featuring an elaborate gilt design of flowers and birds on the cover, and is in unusually nice condition. A pencilled note loosely inserted records that the "mosses" inside were collected "at Crescent City", most likely Crescent City, California, which is on the border with Oregon. The Pacific Northwest of the United States is particularly rich in seaweed species, and this album presents a wide variety, from thin and delicate specimens to feathery and fuzzy examples. A wonderful example of this intriguing art.
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