The Sewanee Herbarium has inherited many old books and specimens through the years, but none is as entrancing as this – tucked into a cabinet is a weathered, green leather bound book embossed with the words “Hydrophytes ou Algues Marines de Noirmoutier” by H. Lourde. Inside are beautifully arranged seaweed pressings in an array of colors, from green to yellow to pink. The specimens presented inside were collected on the island of Noirmoutier, France.
While the book is not dated, it is reasonable to expect that it is a relic from Victorian Europe. It was a popular hobby in that time to make books of seaweed pressings. While this may seem strange, the prominence of naturalists coupled with the greater availability of paper materials and leisure time led to this unique interest. Both men and women engaged in this hobby, producing beautiful and scientifically important collections.
The last few pages of the book are stained, but the fine, looping cursive which identifies each specimen can be seen.
For more information about the social and cultural context of seaweed collecting, visit these articles:
When Housewives Were Seduced by Seaweed by Hunter Oatman-Stanford
Nature Domesticated: A Victorian Seaweed Scrapbook by Laura Massey