In the late 19th century and into the early 20th, herbier specimens were collected and pressed from flowers and plants from around the world. This practice was a popular pastime for affluent Europeans. Collectors of plant specimens would spend a great deal of time drying, pressing, mounting and labeling the plants they found on their travels. Most herbiers you’ll find today have the original paper tags mounted in the lower corner which identifies the scientific plant family, genus and species, location found, the date and the signature of the collector.
I keep my eye out for herbiers at flea markets and antique shops. I just found a set of 10 Swedish herbiers as well as a set of 8 French herbiers on Etsy. If you’re looking yourself, you can use the search terms ‘antique herbier’ ‘antique botanical’ or ‘herbier botanical specimens.’ I love the way these natural beauties look framed in a grouping to make a big statement on a wall, but they are just as sweet hanging solo in a powder room or flanking a bed over nightstands. They add texture and interest to décor, but subtly so with their faded neutral palette of creamy, aged papers, foxing and faded plant life. Perhaps even more than the delicately preserved plant life, I love to admire the beautiful handwriting samples from around the turn of the century. I have a pair of four herbiers hanging in our laundry room framed between two sheets of clear acrylic and hung floating on the wall (I ordered custom frames here). I did the same for a single herbier to hang in our master bath. I have yet to frame another grouping, but will be using these frames which give a ‘floating’ effect as well. I plan to put this second grouping on a blank wall in our south-facing study to give the feeling of being in a conservatory.