These extracts from the herbarium in Goodwood’s Library forms one of several volumes of pressed flowers and plants, probably created for the 2nd Duke of Richmond. The 18th century was a time of growing interest in natural history. Plant-hunters travelled the globe bringing back exotic specimens for the great estates of England, like the magnificent Cedars of Lebanon at Goodwood, planted in 1761. Meanwhile, closer to home, the first naturalists were starting to compile meticulous guides to the flora and fauna of their surroundings. Gilbert White’s seminal.
The Natural History of Selborne, which focused on the village where he lived, just 20 miles from Goodwood, was published in 1789. The 2nd Duke of Richmond was similarly fascinated by science and a great patron of early natural-history publications. Many of these beautiful illustrated books are in the Goodwood Library, alongside the herbarium of Specimens of English Plants, carefully annotated with horticultural details. The herbarium featured contains 48 pages of pressed flowers, now faded and fragile but remarkably intact. It is charming not just for its frail beauty, but also for its lovely handwritten inscriptions.
This pressing is a Small Mountain Sengreen with jagged leaves (a type of Saxifraga), “found on Snowdon and other high mountains in Wales”. The creator is unknown, though the 2nd Duke was related by marriage to Sir Hans Sloane, who was a huge fan of herboria, and could have helped the Duke source his own. It is left to our imaginations to picture this Georgian lady or gentleman, combing the hedgerows, mountains and riverbanks of Britain, the David Attenborough of their day.
This article was taken from the Winter 2019/2020 edition of the Goodwood Magazine.