BOTANY Aug. 22nd ‘39. [n.p but England, and possibly Hyde in Cheshire,
1839. Oblong plain bound notebook, 8vo, ff. 28, final leaf blank; penned in a single neat hand in brown ink and pencil on each recto, and accompanied by some 130 charming small watercolour illustrations; some occasional light foxing, and some marginal browning, slightly more prominent on a couple of leaves, but generally clean and bright; stitched as issued in contemporary brown limp ribbed cloth, head and tail of spine slightly nicked, with some minor fraying and edgewear; a most attractive survivor. An enchanting mid-Victorian manuscript, seemingly designed as an exercise in botanical instruction or self-instruction, adorned with some 130 small watercolour illustrations and the work of Miss H. E. Howard. Whilst botanical pursuits had long been recognised as a suitable and indeed desirable pursuit for young ladies during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, what makes the present album slightly more unusual is that Miss Howard focuses in particular upon the twenty-four classes of plants set out in Linnaeus’ ‘sexual system’, first presented in his famous Systema Naturae in 1735. As part of his extensive classification, Linnaeus believed that an important criteria for classifying plants was to identify the number of stamens and pistils. Whilst soon adopted across Europe by fellow male botanists, it is interesting to note that Henrietta Moriarty, in her work Viridarium (first 1806 with a second edition in 1807 as Fifty Plates of Green-House plants) was studious in her avoidance of representing the organs of generation, therefore making her work suitable for her young female readers. Indeed by the second edition she was publicly rejecting his sexual system.
Clearly views by 1839 had changed somewhat, and Miss Howard (and presumably her teacher?) has no such qualms! The charming, though slightly naive watercolours, illustrate the twenty-four classes of the sexual system, before illustrating and describing seed vessels, corollas, inflorescence, stems, arms, leaves and roots. A number of small corrections and amendments can be seen, both in pencil and ink, suggesting that her work was being overseen.
Previous research traced a Miss H. E. Howard to Hyde in Cheshire, born in 1825, which would make her around fourteen or fifteen at this time.