RESEARCH - Louise Little pressed flower sample mystery

louise little IMG 3756We received from Louise Little in January 2018 these photos of a plant sample with a printed label “HERBARIUM C. BICKNELL BORDIGHERA”. Prof Massoni and the year 1876 are referenced.

This sample is a mystery to me and the researchers in the Clarence Bicknell Association, for a couple of reasons. We would be grateful if any botanical expert could give us guidance.

1)    We have never seen this printed label before and we think it unlikely that it was printed by Bicknell himself. It could, however, have been printed by the institution housing the herbarium (that is, the collection of pressed flowers and plants), a collection big enough to have warranted printing of a label. The network of collectors and museums was large at the end of the 19 century, so it would be one of them.

2)    The hand-writing is not Clarence Bicknell’s.

3)    Bicknell was not established in Bordighera in 1876. He first arrived there in 1878 and settled there a year later. We have no previous evidence of Bicknell collecting samples and sending them to other collectors before he settled in Bordighera. The Museo Bicknell, which housed his own botanical collections, was not built until 1888. Therefore, whoever prepared this printed label and the framed pressed flower, most likely back-dated it. It might be that the person framing it did not know at which Prof Massoni received the sample. It is possible that the date reads 1896 in which case this paragraph is not applicable.

4)    The water-coloured frame for the pressed flower is unusually ornate, as if to try to add value to the object. Similarly, the wood of the frame is of a kind called “distressed beach wood” and very popular in modern framing, even available in this form on eBay and other popular web sites. Any thought that the frame is a modern fabrication is offset by the fact that the French-language newspaper on the rear of the frame appears to be a genuine period piece. The text of the newspaper is all in French, but there is no indication of which newspaper it is from. The text is mainly on events in Rome, dated 12 and 15 January 1872. This would seem to confirm that date of 1876 for the pressed flower, not 1896.

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5)    In the top left corner is written Firenze and what could be a catalogue number.

6)     The pressed flower was found so framed by Louise Little in the last few months a local brocante fair in South West France “and was instantly drawn to it due to its colours and age, but at the time was not sure of its historical significance. 

Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.

Event - Nice, le jeudi 22 mars à 18h, film et conférence

clarence bicknell movie poster 2016Clarence Bicknell au Palais d l'Agriculture de Nice,
le jeudi 22 mars à 18h, film et conférence

L’année 2018 marque le centenaire de Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918 ), homme de lettres, artiste, voyageur, botaniste, archéologue, pasteur, humaniste, espérantiste. Né à Londres, Clarence était le 13ème enfant d' Elhanan Bicknell, magnat de l’huile de baleine et mécène. Après des études à l'Université de Cambridge, il devint un prêtre anglican, et à partir de 1879 vécut à Bordighère sur la côte italienne, entre Menton et Gênes. Il mourut dans sa résidence d'été, proche de Castérino dans les hautes montagnes, à la frontière franco-italienne, le 17 Juillet 1918.

Nous fêtons ce centenaire le jeudi 22 mars à 18h avec a) une projection de film documentaire Les Merveilles de Clarence Bicknell (20 minutes, version française) suivi de b) une présentation de Marcus Bicknell, arrière petit neveu de Clarence Bicknell au sujet de 'Clarence Bicknell; sa passion pour les fleurs sauvages révélée dans son art', c) une discussion avec d'autres spécialistes, questions réponses, d) un apéro après la conférence.

A la Société Centrale d'Agriculture, d'Horticulture et d'Acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes, 113 Promenade des Anglais, 06200 Nice, France. (+33 4 93 86 58 44 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Le Palais de l'Agriculture est le siège de la Société centrale d'agriculture, d'horticulture et d'acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes (SCAH), société savante fondée en 1860, association loi 1901, reconnue d'utilité publique depuis 1894. Il a été construit en 1900-1901 sur les plans de l'ingénieur des Arts et Métiers Paul Marin, secrétaire général de la Société centrale d'agriculture, d'horticulture et d'acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes. Il a été inauguré le 8 avril 1901 par le Président de la République, Émile Loubet. C'est un témoin de l'architecture de la Belle Époque sur la promenade des Anchristmas rose cglais. Propriété de la SCAH, l'édifice est inscrit au titre des monuments historiques le 28 mars 19911. Le bâtiment a reçu le label « Patrimoine du XXe siècle ». Sa restauration s'est achevée en 2012.

La société a pour objet d'étudier les procédés agricoles et horticoles, l'acclimatation et l'amélioration des animaux et végétaux. Notre association est ouverte à tous celles et ceux qui souhaitent y adhérer et participer à des activités choisies parmi celles proposées : cours de jardinage chaque semaine en salle au Palais ou sur terrain animés par Paul BRELAZ et son équipe, cours de botanique deux fois par mois animés par Marc BOTTIN, cours d'art floral déclinés en ikebana (Evy BLANC) et bouquet occidental (Michelle BERNADAC), visite de jardins historiques ou remarquables sélectionnés par Aude de CHIVRE, voyages culturels proposés par Michèle GARNIER, consultation des livres et journaux de notre bibliothèque sous l'oeil attentif de Guy TRAVERE et Dominique VIGNERON, conférences au Palais sur des sujets choisis.

Vous pouvez télécharger et imprimer ce texte par le lien ici.

Société Centrale d'Agriculture, d'Horticulture et d'Acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes
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En collaboration avec
L’Association Clarence Bicknell  -  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  -

NEWS - Italian award, Fitzwilliam recognition for Clarence

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Some reflections on 2017's campaign by Marcus Bicknell...

I should update all Clarence Bicknell lovers of the important strides taken by us in Bordighera and Cambridge in 2017. Bordighera, his home for 40 years and the site of the Museo Bicknell he built, has the core of  his following. From here we are spreading the interest in Clarence round Europe and the USA.

2017 Parmurelu d’Oru

We made a breakthrough in May when the Descu Rondu, an independent Bordighera- based cultural association, selected me as the winner of their annual award the Parmurelu d’Oru - that’s a “mini palm leaf”. The honour

is one thing, media attention for Clarence is another, and the opportunity to stage an independent exhibition was a third. Each  previous winner, artist, writer, scientist, has put something on to dazzle their public at the time of the award ceremony, October. In our case, Gisella Merello, President of the Jury of the Parmurelu d’Oru, author on art and architecture and once a researcher in the Museo Bicknell, encouraged us in our idea to present one of Clarence’s lesser-known talents. And I say “us” because my wife and partner in our Clarence campaign (which has been running since 2013), took on the role of curator of the exhibition. More in a moment.

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 fitzwilliam facadeFitzwilliam Museum

At about the same time, spring 2017, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University, “discovered” Clarence. That is to say they realised the importance in their own archive of the 405 watercolours in 7 vellum-bound albums. My uncle Peter, guardian of  the Clarence collection at the time, had given these albums to the Fitzwilliam in 1980 where they had languished in storage. While researching Clarence, we went up to Cambridge and were so struck by the images that we had some of them photographed at our expense. The Fitzwilliam liked many of them so much that they took many more photos and took the decision to feature Clarence’s work  in their 2018 exhibition of Botanical Art.  The Fitzwilliam  has also produced a choice of two Christmas cards to stock the museum shop, with another 12 coming in 2018, and have also designed the 2019 Fitzwilliam calendar with Clarence’s images.  Recognition indeed!PD.7 1980 f34 1 201704 sjc288 dc1

We were able to acquire from the Fitzwilliam the rights to show reproductions of the designs in  public and to publish them on our web site and in Valerie Lester’s upcoming biography of Clarence. Our own family collection has 3 of Clarence’s vellum- bound albums, notebooks brimming with sketches and watercolour landscapes.

Armed with this exciting and unseen artwork, Susie set about developing her essay on Clarence’s art www.clarence into an exhibition. The theme is that Clarence found creative fulfilment through his creation of these illustrated vellum albums which allowed him to develop his design and artistic talents above and beyond the rigorous depiction of standard botanical work and recording of the prehistoric rock engravings. The major influence on his style was the Arts and Crafts movement which he combined with Victorian whimsy.  14 printed panels A1 size (594 x 841 mm) guide the visitor through Clarence s art in a coherent way, the text being in English (by Susie), French (translations by Colette Thomas) and Italian ( by Edoardo Folli, Gisella’s son). Extra prints of the Fitzwilliam designs, art from the family collection, Genoa University and the Museo Bicknell, and personal items of Clarence’s make up a display of about 60 items.

It was also decided that Clarence’s albums should be available to a bigger audience, and now one of the three albums of art in the family collection, the Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book (which you can see in the left of the glass case in the photo from the Octber 2017 Bordighera exhibition, below right), has been the first to be reproduced in print. It has 104 pages of which 60 are full colour plates of mountain flowers in a matching border on the right side and signatures of the visitors to the house on the left side.  There are more details on the following page. The book is for sale at selected bookshops and on and was launched on the first day of the exhibition in Bordighera.parmurelu display cabinet c

On 8th October 2017 in Bordighera, the ceremony for the official award of the Parmurelu d’Oru to Marcus Bicknell was in the same hall and on the same day as the opening of the exhibition. The great and the good of Bordighera turned out to enjoy Clarence’s art and the accolades offered in the various speeches. Two weeks later the exhibition transferred in its entirety to the Museo Bicknell, also in Bordighera, where it will run till 30 November 2017. Further exhibitions to celebrate the centenary of Clarence’s death will follow during 2018, the present list being…
•    Genoa, Palazzo Reale (spring 2018, to be confirmed)
•    Nice, Société Centrale d'Agriculture, d'Horticulture et d'Acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes (spring, to be confirmed)
•    Cambridge University, Fitzwilliam Museum, botanical art exhibition (5 June- 9 September 2018)
•    Cambridge University, Fitzwilliam Museum, lunchtime seminar and film projection (Wednesday 20th June 2018)
•    Cambridge University, Jesus College Intellectual Forum seminar and film projection in the Frankopan Hall (date to be advised)
•    Cambridge University, Jesus College Intellectual Forum exhibition in the Frankopan Hall (date to be advised)
•    Oxford University, film and a seminar at Oxford University, St Margaret's Institute on Tuesday 3rd July 2018
•    Bordighera, Museo Bicknell (early July to November 2018)
•    Bordighera, Museo Bicknell, Settimana Bicknelliana 14-22 July 2018
•    Tende, Musée des Merveilles (July-September 2018)
•    London, Artworkers’ Guild (to be confirmed)
•    Monaco, Jardin Exotique (September-November 2018)
•    Monaco, Musée d’Anthropologie (September-November 2018)
•    Ventimiglia, Museo Rossi (summer 2018, dates to be advised)
•    Nice, Exposition sur la thématique "Botanistes et Alpinistes dans les Alpes-Maritimes entre les deux siècles" organisé par la Ville de Nice avec la participation des Amis du Muséum d'Histoire naturelle de Nice, Le Muséum d'Histoire naturelle de Nice, La Grande Bibliothèque "Louis Nucera" (BMVR), La Bibliothèque de Cessole, Le Club Alpin Français et l’Association Clarence Bicknell (octobre 2018)

With such a positive 2017 behind us , we are all looking forward to the centenary year in 2018 when Clarence will get the recognition he deserves.

In Clarence's Time - Thomas Cook and the Egypt trip

416 Cooks Nile Cruise logoI wrote to Thomas Cook to ask for permisson to reproduce images of theirs in the biography of Clarence Bicknell by Valerie Lester due in 2018. I was delighted not only to get the approvals but also a charming letter from Paul Smith, the Archivist for Thomas Cook, with some useful information. I reproduce the email here in full as it might be of interest to historians of travel and to students of Clarence's life. I have corrected the transcript of Clarence's Egypt diary and added the salient points here to its footnotes and the annex. You can consult the new version by clicking on the following link:

Dear Marcus,

Happy New Year!

Many thanks for your recent email. Apologies for the delayed response, but I have been out of the office for the past two weeks.

In answer to your query, I have no objections to your reproducing the photo of the Oonas that you found online. I am also happy for you to reproduce the Thomas Cook poster and logo that appear on p22 of the diary.

I also spotted a few errors in your notes about Thomas Cook & Son on p51:

  • Thomas Cook retired at the end of 1878; John Mason Cook officially gained control of the business at the beginning of 1879 (although, in reality, John had been running things since 1873).
  • An earlier edition of Cook’s [Tourist's] Handbook to the Health Resorts of the South of France . . . was published by Thos Cook & Son (never “Sons”) in 1885.
  • Thomas Cook conducted his first party up the Nile in 1869 (not 1884).
  • I’m not sure that Clarence Bicknell is referring to a specific person when he says that Cook got the party through customs with ease. I think he is more likely to mean the corporate “Thomas Cook”, although perhaps in the person of a dragoman (or other representative). It is also highly unlikely to have been John Mason Cook himself.
  • John Mason Cook’s youngest son was Thomas Albert Cook, usually referred to as “Bert” (but never Albert).
  • John Mason Cook was never John A. Mason Cook – the “A” is an error.
  • John Mason Cook had three sons.
  • Cook's Tourists' Handbook for Egypt, the Nile and the Desert was first published in 1876 (not 1897).
  • Thomas Cook & Son built their first Nile steamers in 1886 (not 1904).

NileCruise7If you are able to incorporate any of my amendments, I would be very grateful.

I also note with interest that Clarence Bicknell sailed across the Mediterranean on P&O’s “Hydaspes” – Thomas Cook himself actually travelled aboard this vessel as part of his pioneering world tour in 1872/73!

One final point: In footnote 14 on p5 you discuss the use of Australian vs Austrian. “Austrian” is definitely correct – Austrian Lloyd and Norddeutscher Lloyd were different companies, the former being much older and bigger than the latter.

I hope this helps, but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further queries or requests.

Kind regards,



Paul Smith | Company Archivist

Thomas Cook UK & Ireland

T: +44 (0) 1733 417350

E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thomas Cook UK Ltd, Westpoint, Peterborough Business Park, Lynch Wood, Peterborough PE2 6FZ, United Kingdom

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