The Legacy of Sir J.E. Smith

A terrific bargain available once a month in London is a ‘Treasures Tour’ and visit to the Library of the Linnean Society, in Burlington House, Piccadilly. (I have now managed one way and another to get inside the Royal Astronomical Society and the Society of Antiquaries – as well, of course, as the Royal Academy – so I have only to tick off the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Geological Society (home of the William Smith map, which apparently you can just drop in and see during office hours. I wish I’d realised that yesterday, but never mind, I will be back soon to see Charles I at the RA …). Continue reading

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Object of the Month: January 2018

On 21 January, already deeply memorable as a family birthday, I was looking for a picture of a squirrel, since some Power had Decreed that it was also Squirrel Appreciation Day. The photo I found was a rather bad (full of glass reflections) one I completely forgot I had taken, two years ago: on that occasion I wrote instead about a German tankard from the Glaisher bequest with deer on it. Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: January 2018

The first problem I have in considering the hazel (apart from the minor detail that, in the last few days when I have been confined to bed/the house, it has been bright and sunny – ideal photographic weather – and now that I’m able to wobble into the garden to take pics, it’s dull and pouring) is that I don’t know whether my hazel is in fact a hazel or a cob. The second problem is that I don’t know whether the hazel/cob is a bush or a tree. The third problem is squirrels … Continue reading

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Small But Perfectly Formed

When I was unexpectedly cast upon the shore of the Island of Leisure, nearly three years ago now, one of the resolutions I made to myself in contemplation of the Rest of the Journey of My Life was that I would not leave seeing any exhibition until the last few, crowded, hurried, sweaty (yes, Mr Hokusai, I’m thinking of you) days of its existence. Behold me then, arriving at the British Museum 10.30 a.m. on 11 January, to see the exhibition of a very small number of items, relating to his medical interests, from Sir Hans Sloane’s monumental collection. This small show in the Print Rooms had opened at some time in the autumn (I can’t find when, as all mention of it seems to have been struck from the web), and closed precisely on 11 January 2018 (possibly not coincidentally the anniversary of Sloane’s death in 1753). However, I didn’t need to worry about crowds, which made a nice change … Continue reading

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The Mustard Plant of the Scriptures

Discussion of conifers and mention of David Don brings me back to Mr Aylmer Bourke Lambert (1761–1842), whose great work on the genus was published in seven parts, with plates by Ferdinand Bauer (collaborator on John Sibthorp’s Flora graeca, artist on the voyage of H.M.S. Investigator), between 1803 and 1807 (10 guineas plain, 40 guineas coloured), with later volumes co-written with Don. However, I first came across his name almost exactly a year ago as the author of a very short note in the Transactions of the Linnean Society for 1837 on the ‘Mustard Plant of the Scriptures’, which had been acquired, as a ripped-out leaf, by the Cory Library at Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: December 2017

This piece runs the risk of being the most boring blog ever – even by my own soporific-tending standards. Yet it seemed a good idea at the time … I decided to take one picture every month in 2017 of the same low branch of the conifer under which I park my bike at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. This would be a fascinating time-lapse record of the seasonal changes in one particular specimen. The only snag was/is that, with the greatest possible respect to this noble and beautiful tree, the sequence is not actually very exciting. Continue reading

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The Consequences of Varicella (Part 2)

Continuing (rather belatedly – I’ve been busy with retail) the exploration of a small area of the East End of London by foot and buggy – we lose our way, but are guided onward by the pinnacles of an extraordinary church, and discover more about the philanthropic efforts of Victorian Londoners. Continue reading

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