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Victorian Ladies' Pressed Seaweed Pictures, Circa 1885


Victorian Ladies' Pressed Seaweed Pictures,

Circa 1885


The six different pictures, from a group of nineteen, consists of groups of seaweed arranged on paper in an artistic manner and now framed in simple black frames.  Biologists pressed samples of seaweeds for herbariums and, historically seaweed was pressed for identification by enthusiasts and botany hobbyists.  


But women, in particular, during the Victorian era, pressed seaweed to use decoratively and put into albums like the one these pages were taken from.  There is even one famous, long-lost scrapbook—Queen Victoria’s, which she reportedly made as a young woman—and George Eliot has hinted that she dabbled, too, writing in an 1856 journal entry that the tide pools on the shores of Ilfracombe “made me quite in love with seaweeds


One of the pictures has a poem, Flowers of the Sea, accompanying the seaweed display which is from Historia naturalis bulgarica 4: 10 - 15 by Petar Beron, a Bulgarian educator.


Call us not weeds, but flowers of the Sea,

For lovely & bright & gay tinted are we,

And alike independent of sunshine & showers,

Then call us not weeds, we are Ocean's gay flowers.


Not nursed like the plants of a summer parterre,

Whose gales are but sighs of the evening air,

Our exquisite, fragile & delicate forms,

Are nursed by the Ocean and rocked by the Storms


Dimensions: 15 1/4 inches high x 12 1/4 inches wide x 1/2 inch deep


This is a link to a good article about the subject of seaweed collecting.-http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/when-housewives-were-seduced-by-seaweed/


Reference:

(http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-forgotten-victorian-craze-for-collecting-seaweed)


Nineteenth century Britain was a hotbed of biological enthusiasm. “Natural history was absolutely huge,” says Dr. Stephen Hunt, a researcher in environmental humanities who works at the University of the West of England. Households filled up with painstakingly stuffed mammals and birds. So-called “gentlemen scientists” traveled the world drawing, describing, and collecting plants and animals. As railway networks grew, and labor advances led to more leisure time, ordinary citizens got in on the trend. Microscopes became more affordable, and collecting clubs popped up across Britain. “It was cross-class to some extent—working class and middle class,” says Hunt. “There was a democratization of natural history.”


Women, though, were still largely left out. The biggest natural history clubs of all, the Royal Society and the Linnaean Society, refused female members, and barred women even from their “public” meetings. Hunting animals was too dangerous, and digging up plants was, well, too sexy. “There was a taboo on botany, because Linnaean botany was based on the sexual parts,” says Hunt. “That was seen as controversial.”


Luckily, there was seaweed—docile, G-rated, and available somewhat close to home. “It was accessible for women in ways that other things weren’t,” says Hunt. As the seashore itself gained a reputation as a restorative landscape, plenty of women found themselves there, either recuperating from illness or seeking family-friendly summer fun. Many of them were already diehard scrapbookers, and seaweed makes a particularly rewarding collage subject: not only does each specimen’s strange color and shape present a design challenge, its gelatinous inner structure means that, when pressed onto paper, it actually glues itself to the page.


While it’s unclear exactly how many women spent their Saturdays kelp-crafting, there are enough amateur seaweed scrapbooks floating around to indicate that it was a popular pursuit. There is even one famous, long-lost scrapbook—Queen Victoria’s, which she reportedly made as a young woman—and George Eliot has hinted that she dabbled, too, writing in an 1856 journal entry that the tide pools on the shores of Ilfracombe “made me quite in love with seaweeds.”







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