11403

A FOUR DOOR BREAKFRONT CABINET DESIGNED TO CONTAIN A COLLECTION OF BOTANICAL SPECIMENS

English, Possibly Lancashire. Third Quarter Of The Eighteenth Century.

Measurements

Height: 39 3/4" (101 cm)
Width: 28 1/2" (71.8 cm)
Depth:29 1/2" (74.9 cm).

Research
Of walnut, ebonized and gilt decoration. The central section with two full length glazed doors concealing four shelves, flanked on each side with two lower sections with three shelves each contained behind a single glazed door. Ebonized and gilt plaques surmounting the central section inscribed Herbarium Gallicium and Gallia quos genuit collectos undique flores / hic docti celebrant, plurima musa canit; conforming plaques above each side section inscribed cryptogames. The whole raised on six shaped bracket feet. The cabinet holding labeled dossiers containing botanical specimens.

Marks:
Ebonzed and gilded signs inscribed:
Herbarium Gallicum
Gallia quos genuit collectos undique flores / hic docti celebrant, plurima musa canit
Cryptogames

Provenance:
French private collection

This impressive cabinet was specially constructed to house a 19th century herbarium, a collection of preserved plant specimens and associated documentation that functions as a physical botanical encyclopedia. The specimens were traditionally dried, glued or sewn onto sheets of paper, and then placed in boxes or bound in volumes with others of a particular type, a method that remains largely unchanged today.

The practice of observing and preserving plants reaches back to antiquity; the oldest example of this is a bundle of dried olive twigs bound by a palm leaf, dating from circa 305 B.C, found in an Egyptian tomb and conserved in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Botanical subjects were also described and illustrated in manuscripts called “herbals,” used by apothecaries and physicians. The drying of plants and flowers as keepsakes or devotional objects continued for centuries, but it was not until the Renaissance that they were systematically procured and catalogued to form a botanical database.

The earliest recorded modern-day herbarium was compiled by the Italian physician and botanist Luca Ghini (1500-1556). He served as the founding director of the botanical garden at Pisa at the invitation of Cosimo I de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1519-74) in 1543. The earliest extant herbarium dates from the 16th century and was compiled by one of his students, Gherardo Cibo (1512-1600), begun in 1532. A Flemish botanist named Adriaan van den Spigel (1578-1625) “was probably the first scholar to describe how to make a herbarium, complete with a recipe for a suitable glue,”1 published in his book Isagoge in rem herbarium libri duo (“Introduction to matters relating to the herbarium in two books”) in 1606 and 1608.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.