Oxford University Herbaria, a global cultural resource of approximately one million dried plant specimens founded in the seventeenth century, is the oldest herbarium in the United Kingdom.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the Herbarium Room was part of the Department of Botany; the herbarium was accommodated next door. In the early 1950s, more space was needed for teaching and research so the Department and herbarium were relocated to their current home on South Parks Road. The newly refurbished Herbarium Room will reconnect the Botanic Garden with the Department of Plant Sciences and the Herbaria.
The prints on the walls are reproduced from the Hortus Elthamensis, which was published in 1732. This very rare book describes exotic plants cultivated by the wealthy, early eighteenth-century apothecary James Sherard (1666-1738) at Eltham, Kent (now Greater London). It was written and illustrated by the German botanist Johann Jacob Dillenius (1684-1747) before he became the University’s first Sherardian Professor of Botany in 1734.
The Bobarts: Building Botany at Oxford
The first exhibition will focus on the work of the original keepers of the Physic Garden.
Planting the Oxford Physic Garden began in 1642. Jacob Bobart the Elder (c.1599-1680) and his son Jacob (1641-1719), first Keepers of the Garden, recorded their horticultural efforts, both successes and failures, as lists of plant names. More importantly, they collected thousands of herbarium specimens into a Hortus Siccus ('dried garden'), which survive to the present day. A physical specimen we can examine today means we know precisely what the Bobarts meant by the names on their lists.
It was great to see so many visitors at the Herbarium Rooms the first opening to the public. Please stay tuned for future opening dates.