About the Clifford Herbarium

Clifford's Herbarium consists of 3,461 sheets of dried, mounted plant specimens.

Clifford likely established the herbarium in the Hartekamp in the 1720s, building it up with plants not only from his own garden but also from others, and from collectors around the world. 

There are few direct indications of the source of any given sheet, as was common in this period. However, the origins of some of the sheets can sometimes be determined from clues from such as handwriting, the style of labels, and watermarks of the mounting paper (see Wijnands & Heniger, 1991 in the bibliography).



A specimen of Lion's tail (Leonotis leonurus) from George Clifford's herbarium.


The plants in the collection are mounted on single unconnected sheets. This method is used in modern herbaria, but is in contrast with the earlier practice of binding sheets in large book-like volumes such those found in the Hans Sloane and Paul Hermann herbaria.

Dutch charm

Rather charmingly, many of the specimens are mounted such that they appear to be growing out of highly decorative, engraved paper urns held down by paper ribbons with their names inscribed on ornate labels. These are peculiar to Dutch herbarium collections of the 1730s, and can be seen in Adriaan van Royen's herbarium, now at the Riksherbarium, Leiden. An account of the different urns, handwritings and watermarks found in the herbarium is provided by Wijnands & Heniger (1991 - see Bibliography)

To the Museum


After Clifford's death and the sale of his estate, the herbarium was bought in 1791 by Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), the noted natural historian, and shipped to Britain where it joined his already large collections at his house in Soho Square, London. Banks' will provided for his herbarium (including Clifford's material) to go to his librarian and assistant, Robert Brown (1773-1858), and on Brown's death to the British Museum.

Dispersed collections

Brown chose to give the collection to the Museum before his death and Clifford's herbarium was initially kept as a separate part of the collections of the new Botany Department, which Brown supervised. Later in the nineteenth century, Clifford's specimens were dispersed by incorporating them in the main collection, but they were separated out again early in the twentieth century.

Together again

Clifford's herbarium is currently housed in its own cabinets, separate from the main herbaria in what is now the Natural History Museum in London. It is possible that some of Clifford specimens have been overlooked and are still scattered through the main collections, but we believe these can now be only very few in number.