Lost and found

11th January 2019

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A unique 18th Century Herbarium, which went missing from Wadham Library in the early 1900s has been returned to the College thanks to an eagle-eyed bookseller.

  • Richard Warner's signature and bookplate on the inside front cover

  • The herbarium with auction lot number

    The herbarium with auction lot number

  • The entry in the Wadham interleaved copy of In Bibliotheca Bodleiana Catalogus Impressorum Librorum cataloguing the two volumes of the Wadham Herbarium.

Specimina Plantarum Volume 1 is the first of two volumes which were given to Wadham College in 1775 at the bequest of Richard Warner.

The carefully catalogued collection of some 300 dried and pressed leaf, flower and plant samples were collected in the 1750s, possibly by Warner himself. However, the collection was interrupted or stopped and the second volume is blank. 

At some point after 1919 when the two volumes were recorded as being in the Wadham Library collection, volume one went missing, and was officially declared missing in 1977 following unsuccessful attempts to locate it. 

When the Herbarium appeared as lot number 206 in the catalogue of Dominic Winter Auctioneers in November 2018, at a guide price of £500-£800, it was spotted by Robert Harding of Maggs Bros Ltd, an expert in rare books. Robert knew that it was originally part of the Warner collection and that Wadham owned the collection. Wadham’s Rare Books Cataloguer Sandra Bailey confirmed that the book was indeed Wadham property. 

Wadham Librarian Tim Kirtley contacted the auctioneers immediately and the book was withdrawn from sale. Correspondence with the owners followed and the private collector generously returned the book to Wadham College in December. 

“We are delighted to have the book back after all these years – it is one of only two books of plant specimens in the Wadham collection”, commented Tim. Wadham Library is planning to exhibit the book in 2019 along with other works from Wadham’s Richard Warner botanic collection.