Derby Museums Friends Raise Funds To Purchase Rare Manuscript

16/02/2022

The Derby Museums’ Friends have raised £6251, matching an Arts Council England / V&A Purchase Fund Grant to help Derby Museums acquire a very special, unpublished manuscript, dated 1825, created by Derby botanist and artist, Lucy Hardcastle (1771-1835).

The manuscript is a rare find, being one of only a handful of Lucy Hardcastle’s original drawings and watercolours known so far. These include Hardcastle’s manuscript for the book An Introduction to the Elements of the Linnaean System of Botany, for Young Persons, which was published in Derby in 1830 (now in the archives of the Natural History Museum, London), as well as a single watercolour of a mushroom, sold at auction in 2002.

Purchased with support from the Arts Council England / V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Derby Museums’ Friends, the manuscript was acquired by Derby Museums from the Antiquariaat Schienrenberg in Amsterdam in December 2021. It contains eight watercolour illustrations of flowers and mushrooms from life, including two specimens of Agaricus, which the artist records as having been ‘found near Derby’ by her daughters Antonietta and Mary.

Research carried out by Emeritus Professor Jonathan Powers (University of Derby) and Anne Powers (a professional genealogist and historian) has confirmed that Lucy was born in Derby around 1771, the second child of Lamech Swift and his wife Dorothy. Lamech was a ‘Silk Throwster’ and ran the Silk Mill, on what is now the site of Derby’s Museum of Making.

She later received lessons from Erasmus Darwin before going on to set up a school of her own in Derby after her husband, John Hardcastle, a Birmingham Tea Dealer, became ill. Now the main breadwinner, Lucy balanced the roles of mother, carer, and teacher, with her serious research interests. Her manuscript illustrated her first-hand study of Meadow Saffron and revealed for the first time why it was that the plant appeared to set seed in spring but then flowered in autumn.

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