Researchers into the botanist and polymath Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) were guests of the Fielding-Druce Herbarium in the Oxford University Herbaria on Monday 11 January 2016. One of the researchers, Graham Avery of St Antony’s College, Oxford University, had discovered two years ago that the Herbarium has many botanical specimens originating from Clarence Bicknell.
Now Clarence Bicknell is the subject of a biography being written by Boston-based Valerie Browne Lester whose previous books include Phiz – The Man Who Drew Dickens and Giambattista Bodoni - The prince of typographers - His Life and His World. Valerie is supported in her research by a team of which four were present, Graham Avery (above), Marcus Bicknell (Chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association), Helen Blanc-Francard (garden and plant expert) and Susie Bicknell (researcher on socio-cultural issues). The visit was one of several organised for and by Valerie including to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (Bicknell’s botanical drawings and fantasy albums), the Museo Bicknell in Bordighera, Italy (archaeological relics, stone age rock engravings, books and photos), the Musée des Merveilles in Tende, France (stone age rock engravings), the Museo Civico, Bordighera, Genoa University, the Shropshire Archive, Shrewsbury, the East Sussex Archives at The Keep, Brighton, and the Botanical Museum Geneva, which house over 30,000 drawings, rock art rubbings and artefacts collected or created by Bicknell in his lifetime. The biography will be published in time for 2018, the centenary of Bicknell’s death.
Serena Marner, Manager of the Herbarium, brought out for the researchers many of the Bicknell specimens, whose entry in An Account of the Herbaria… by H.N. Clokie (1964) states that he collected on the Riviera and Corfu. Many of the specimens here were contributed by other correspondents, and the network of researcher/collectors across Europe and elsewhere was a significant feature of the explosion of interest in science and nature in the second half of the 19th century. Bicknell himself corresponded with scores of botanists and archaeologists in English, French, Italian and Esperanto and he was a dedicated European 150 years before the Union we know today.
Serena Marner has been kind enough to supply this excellent photo (reproduced on the left) of one of the Bicknell specimens. This is one name after him, Pimpinella bicknellii, which Clarence Bicknell and his helper Luigi Pollini found on Majorca in 1897. This plant, endemic to Majorca, was named after Bicknell in 1898 by John Briquet, Director of the Botanical Garden of Geneva. The specimen has a label of the Herbarium Normale of Ignaz Dörfler stating (in botanical Latin) that it was "collected by Clarence Bicknell and Luigi Pollini in May 1899 on Majorca at a height of 4-500 metres on rocky slopes on the northern side of the hills between the two farms of Ariant (near Pollenza) and the sea, the locus classicus where Bicknell first discovered it in 1897".
More details of Bicknell and the Oxford University Herbaria can be found in Graham Avery’s short paper which can be downloaded at