Lady Mary Booth's Plant Specimen Book

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 1545
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      372 x 240 mm. 1 volume. 91 folios, modern foliation. Medium: paper, with numerous plant specimens pasted in. Binding: quarter-bound in vellum, boards covered in Dutch gilt paper. Condition: some loss to the vellum at the head of the spine; the covers are worn and a little soiled; some of the plant specimens are damaged.
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

Volume containing plant specimens collected by Lady Mary Booth at Dunham Massey in 1725. Entitled in the hand of Mary Booth: 'Herbs collected | by | Lady Mary Booth, 1725, | only Daughter & heiress of the Earl of Warrington | afterwards married to the Earl of Stamford'. The volume contains several hundred plant specimens mounted on the rectos. The specimens are generally of complete plants, including roots, foliage, and in some cases flowers. However, space limitations dictated that only sections of larger plants such as ferns were mounted. Each specimen is numbered in ink, with a list of the specimens written by Mary Booth on the facing versos, employing both scientific Latin names and common names.

The specimens are arranged by species or genera as follows: mosses (2v-4r); hellebores (4v-5r); chickweeds and pimpernel (7v-8r); grasses (8v-12r); cudweeds (13v-14r); sages (14v-15r); orachs (15v-17r); sorrels (17v-18r); lady's smocks and shepherd's purse (18v-19r); valerians (20v-21r); milkwort (22v-23r); celandine and pilewort (23v-24r); saxifrages (24v-25r); stitchwort (26v-27r); avens (28v-29r); crowfeet (29v-30r); cranesbills (31v-32r); water-crowfeet (32v-33r); speedwells (33v-34r); germanders (34v-35r); trefoils (35v-36r); snakeweed (37v-38r); fumitories (38v-39r); ground ivy (39v-40r); mints (40v-41r); nettles (42v-43r); betony (43v-44r); Solomon's seal (44v-45r); dropwort (45v-46r); burnet (46v-47r); St John's wort (49v-51r); sanicles (52v-53r); nightshades (56v-58r); spleenworts and maidenhairs (59v-60r); ferns (60v-63r); wormwoods (64v-66r); spurges (67v-68r); dead-nettles (70v-71r); motherwort (73v-74r); mousetail (75v-76r); lillies (76v-77r); mouse-ear (77v-78r); dandelion (81v-82r); hawkweed (82v-83r); mercuries (85v-86r). There is a single unlabelled specimen on 89r. There are several blank leaves between some sections, suggesting that Lady Mary Booth allowed room to expand the number of specimens.

The volume constitutes a remarkable record of the flora at Dunham Massey in the early 18th century. It is also a testament to Lady Mary Booth's interest in plant taxonomies and to her identificatory and organisational skills, which align her with many male amateur scientists of the period.

Script: written in brown ink in Lady Mary Booth's formal hand.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lady Mary Booth (1704-1772) was the only child of George Booth (1675-1758), 2nd Earl of Warrington, and his wife Mary Oldbury, the daughter of a wealthy London merchant, who brought him a fortune estimated at £40,000. The marriage was not a happy one, and it failed to produce a son to continue the Booth line at Dunham Massey. Instead the 2nd Earl of Warrington appears to have focused all his affection and concern on his only daughter, Mary (1704-1772), who was trained to assume responsibility for the management of the estates. In 1736 Mary Booth married Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford, the two families already being associated by the marriage in 1644 of George Booth (1622-1684), 1st Baron Delamer, to Lady Elizabeth Grey, daughter of the 1st Earl of Stamford.

Under Lord Warrington's will Dunham Massey and the Booth estates were vested in two trustees, George and Thomas Hunt, on behalf of Mary during her lifetime (as a woman she could not own the property herself), subject to a proviso that her husband should have no power or control over them. Whatever the legal position, Mary Countess of Stamford was the de facto owner of the Booth estates and took a keen personal interest in their development. On her death in 1772 Dunham Massey passed to her son, George Harry Grey (1737-1819), 5th Earl of Stamford.

The Park at Dunham Massey is medieval in origin, but owes its present appearance to Mary's father, George Booth, 2nd Earl of Warrington, who planted the formal avenues which radiate out from the Hall in the manner popularized by Louis XIV at Versailles in the mid-seventeenth century. The Earl is reputed to have planted upwards of 100,000 trees, and the project occupied most of his life. Already in 1697 the first avenues were depicted in an engraving by Johannes Kip, while the scheme was not completed until around 1750, when George Booth encircled the Park with a substantial brick wall and he commissioned the artist John Harris to paint a series of bird's-eye views of his mature creation.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The manuscript was discovered in the Dixon Store adjacent to the Main University Library in c.2007.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the manuscript can be supplied for private research and study purposes only, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the manuscript. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The volume is written in the hand of Lady Mary Booth and is presumed to have been retained in her ownership. At an unknown date the volume passed to Charles Bailey (1838-1924) of Whalley Range, Manchester, a noted plant collector and President of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, who donated his extensive collection of plant specimens to Manchester Museum in 1917; the volume bears his bookplate, which is annotated 'Box 715', inside the front cover. It is therefore possible that the volume was transferred from Manchester Museum to the University of Manchester Library at an unknown date.

Related Material

The Library holds the papers of the Grey family, Earls of Stamford, from Dunham Massey, and of their predecessors, the Booth family. These include the papers of Lady Mary Booth (GB 133 EGR3/7). In addition, the Library holds a translation of the Catechism into French by Lady Mary Booth, La Catechisme de l'Eglise Expliqué, 1717 (GB 133 French MS 145).

Geographical Names