A fascinating look at the 19th-century tradition of collecting seaweed and pressing it into the pages of a book — a pastime so celebrated that Queen Victoria herself reportedly made one as a young girl and gifted it to the queen of Portugal:
Nineteenth-century seaweed albums have a baked-in melancholy. Despite the best intentions, they do not flatter seaweed. The samples are brittle where the plant was pliant, opaque when once translucent, flaccid where previously ballooned. The displacement from sea to paper steals a measure of the plants’ integrity, and time leaches away the rest. In every respect, the wonders of seaweed have fled the book. And yet, these albums still speak — not of seaweed exactly, but of the collector’s care and devotion. There is a particular kind of eros that thrums between a receptive human and the natural world; the contours and depth of this eros is the true subject of a seaweed album.