A Victorian Botanist in the Alps

[Alpine flowers]. Speight, Harry, historian and traveller (1855-1915). Flora Alpina.

Switzerland, 1885.

Oblong 4to (317 x 236 mm). 70 mounted samples on 21 sheets, with a handwritten key opposite each. Contemporary green cloth album with gilt cover title, borders stamped in blind and gilt. Moirée silk endpapers. Loosely inserted: handwritten account of the journey (20 pp., oblong 8vo) and handwritten "Alphabetical list of plants contained in book of Swiss Flora" (3 pp., folio).


A copious, well-presented album of pressed and dried Alpine flower samples assembled by the Yorkshire historian Harry Speight during a journey through the Swiss Alps in September 1885, when he was thirty years of age. Among the 70 different specimens here contained are not only the famed "Edelweiss" (leontopodium alpinum - "an uncommon variety"), but also heather (calluna), buckler-mustard (biscutella laevigata), rock-jasmine (androsace glacialis), greater burnet-saxifrage (pimpinella magna), the gymnadenia nigra, and other both classic and far-flung alpine flora. An alphabetical list of all plants, loosely inserted, provides the index to this fine set. Intriguingly, Speight also gives an extensive and scholarly account of his collection trip in a separate, unpublished manuscript of 20 pages, entitled "Swiss Flora: A Holiday Ramble", similarly inserted under the upper cover.

Binding a little rubbed. Some offsetting of the flower specimens to the opposite pages, where information on the various plants and their place of discovery is provided. A few odd edge tears and duststains to the inserted documents, but well legible and finely preserved altogether.

The genealogist and author Harry Speight of Bradford, West Yorkshire, travelled over almost every part of the British Islands and Western Europe, mostly on foot. A scholar of Yorkshire history and antiquities, he served as president of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.

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