Today I’ve been photographing sheets from the Leo Grindon Herbarium collection. Leopold Hartley Grindon (1818-1904) was a Victorian botanist with a keen interest in cultivated plants and the educational use of specimens. The Grindon herbarium, in addition to those of two other great Victorian botanists Charles Bailey and James Cosmo Melvill, came to form the basis of the Manchester Museum Herbarium, which is one of the largest in the UK (King 2007). In addition to the extensive collection of Herbarium sheets, the Grindon collection contains newspaper cuttings, correspondence and book plates used as teaching aids (King 2007). Grindon was very keen that the material that he collected had some educational value. He recognised that though specimens pressed on to a herbarium sheet may fade in colour over time, this can be accounted for by supplementing the pressed specimen with a colourful illustration from a book plate or newspaper cutting. Illustrations are also useful in exploring parts of the plant in detail; and can act as ‘iconotypes’ if the real specimen is lost (An iconotype is type specimen that is represented by a painting or drawing instead of a physical specimen. This can happens because a physical type has not been collected when it was described, or because it has been lost.)
The sheets are being photographed so that the photo’s can then be linked to the KE-EMu entry for the sheet; and give people more information about the object (which is always a good thing). The technique used to photograph the sheets involves using a dark cupboard, downward-pointing tripod and some special lights. I am definitely no photographer, so a lot of time was spent trying to get the aperture opening and focus just right (and the lights failing didn’t help things either!) Here are the results of some of my early efforts:
It’s important to get the photo right to give as good an impression of the illustration as possible so that people will be more informed about what the specimen is (and more likely to want to use it).
Use of these sheets would have been something that Grindon would definitely have approved of. I have a great deal of admiration for the work carried out by Grindon. He wasn’t the kind of botanist who just collected plants for the sake of it; or collected them as a means to enhance his own standing within the natural history community. He wanted to share what he found and discovered with others; and use his collection as a way of informing and inspiring future botanists. And for that, I doth my cap to Mr Grindon.
King, D. Q. (2007) A checklist of sources of the botanical illustrations in the Leo Grindon Herbarium, the Manchester Museum Archives of Natural History 34 (1) : 129-139.
STOP PRESS: Currently photographing herbarium sheets and illustrations to be displayed on the allotment. How exciting!