Object of the month: Cadbury-owned horticultural prints

Some objects are exciting not just because of their intrinsic qualities, but because of the hands they’ve passed through during their lifetime.

Book of Horticultural Prints, 1820s

This book of horticultural prints was originally owned by R. J. Harper in 1829, who wrote his name in the book. We know little about him, except that he was probably from Staffordshire. Later, however, the book belonged to families who are well known in Birmingham and beyond.  

Signatures of J. Edmund Southall and Geraldine Cadbury

In pencil, we find the names of J. Edmund Southall and Geraldine Southall Cadbury. These two were brother and sister, born into a Quaker family based in Edgbaston. Geraldine’s Christian faith inspired her commitment to social activism, and in 1891 she married Barrow Cadbury, a member of the famous chocolate-making enterprise and a fellow Quaker and social reformer. It’s possible that Edmund initially bought the book second-hand – there is a price of 2/- marked in pencil – and then passed it on to his sister, perhaps when she got married. The provision of open space and access to nature was an important element of the Cadburys’ philanthropic work, so it’s not surprising that they valued these beautiful images of plants.

Chrysanthemums drawn by William Hooker, 1822

The book then passed into the hands of Geraldine’s daughter, Dorothy Adlington Cadbury. Dorothy must have known it since childhood, and perhaps it played a part in her developing passion for botany. She became an accomplished botanical illustrator and a keen collector of plant specimens, although her working life was devoted to being company director for Cadbury.

Casuarina, lithograph by B. King, 1820s

During the 1950s, Dorothy collaborated with Prof. Jack Hawkes (who was based at Winterbourne) on a book about Warwickshire flora. At some point during their friendship, Dorothy gave the book to Jack and, thanks to his family’s generosity, it is now in Winterbourne’s collection. We also have specimens collected by Dorothy Cadbury in the Herbarium, so we think Dorothy would be pleased that her family’s book has now joined them.