Charming, well-preserved 19th century herbal

[Herbarium]. Strail, Charles Antoine, theologian and botanist (1808-1893). [Herbier]. Ière Partie.

Magnée (Wallonia, Belgium), 1848.

4to (19 × 24 cm). 51 double leaves of dried plant specimens, mounted under narrow paper strips, carefully labelled and identified. (Includes:) The same. Autograph letter signed. Magnée, 18 June 1848. 8vo. 2 pp. To Mr. de Kessel. Stored loosely in contemporary marbled portfolio with heart-shaped cover label.


This charming, well-preserved herbal, of whose "deux petits volumes" (as mentioned in the accompanying letter) only this present first one has survived, was compiled for the wife of Mr. de Kessel by the priest and amateur naturalist Charles Strail, a founding member of the "Société Royale de Botanique de Belgique". The plants, collected on a trip to Beaufays, are accompanied by detailed taxonomic information, such as Strail's following note on the baneberry specimen: "Le calice de cette plante tombe aussitot que sa fleur s'ouvre". Abbé Strail would later go on to publish a "Florule de Chaudfontaine et de Magnée" (1863) as well as a standard work on mints, for which he corresponded with like-minded scholars and enthusiasts throughout Europe, including members of the "Botanical Exchange Club of the British Isles".

Backing leaves slightly browned with a few short tears. Portfolio somewhat rubbed; letter wrinkled with edge tears (formerly mounted on the inside front cover, where the upper left corner with "Bath" stationery mark remains). Altogether a very well-preserved herbal, and a fine example of the 19th century's physico-theological enthusiasm for naturalism.

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