A Large 19thC Group of Thirty-One Framed Botanical Specimens of Ferns

Origin: English
Period: Mid-Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1860
Seven at: 11.25” high x 9.5” wide each
Twenty Four at: 12.5” high x 8” wide each

The very large group of framed botanical specimens, hailing from the third quarter of the nineteenth century and showing an interesting and striking array of British native ferns, each now framed for display, with twenty-four being hand captioned in their Latin names, the wholes once part of an album and now making a huge impression as a wall art collection.

The specimens are in generally good overall order. There is some light discoloration marks, minor margin toning and fading to the wholes. The frames and ivory card mounts are recent and in keeping. If you require the names of a particular specimen then please do inquire.

Originally marketed in the 1830s as plants that appealed only to intelligent people, ferns soon became a nationwide phenomenon. A great Victorian craze, pteridomania (pterido being Latin for ferns) was the huge love affair for ferns and all things fern-like in Britain between 1840s and 1890s. The term ‘pteridomania’ was coined in 1855 by Charles Kingsley, author of ‘The Water Babies’, in his book ‘Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore’.

The Victorian era was the heyday of the amateur naturalist. Pteridomania is generally considered a British eccentricity, but while it lasted, fern madness invaded all aspects of Victorian life. Ferns and fern motifs appeared everywhere; in homes, gardens, art and literature. Their images adorned rugs, tea sets, chamber pots, garden benches – even custard cream biscuits.

If you couldn’t afford a fernery and wanted to collect ferns, then a fern album full of dried specimens was the way to go. Many fashionable homes boasted a Wardian case (a glass case similar to a terrarium) to display a collection of ferns. A host of books appeared to help identify the most desirable native ferns and fern hunting parties became popular social occasions. The appeal may also have had something to do with the fact that these parties afforded romantic opportunities for young couples to meet in an informal setting. They became less fashionable after 1900.

The number of known extant fern species is about 10,500, but estimates have ranged as high as 15,000

This collection can fill a huge void and would look particularly striking running up a staircase wall for example.