Throughout his catalogue of the East India Company Herbarium, Nathaniel Wallich makes reference to herbarium collections by using the abbreviations ‘Herb.’, ‘Hb.’ or simply ‘H.’ The clues to understanding what these mean are given by Wallich in his introduction on page 1 of the Wallich Catalogue, and in a longer commentary on page 61.
Most frequently encountered are ‘Herb. 1823’ and ‘Herb. 1824’, sometimes preceded with ‘in’. These are linked to scientific names, either the name Wallich is using for the catalogue entry, or a name given as a synonym. They refer to plant names that Wallich had previously written on the herbarium specimens he had arranged whilst in Calcutta and sent to the India Museum in London, some years before he arrived in the UK. On page 1 of the Wallich Catalogue he explains that ‘Those [specimens] which have been sent home in preceeding [sic] years will be distinguished by having the abbreviated word “Herb” affixed to them, together with the year in which they were received and deposited in the Company’s museum.’ There is no evidence that these specimens were ever worked on, and it is likely that the crates were merely stored, unopened, in the India Museum. As one of the examples illustrates, this material included Wallich’s own extensive 1820/21 collections from Nepal, which, had David Don known about them at the time, would have been very useful to him in preparing his Prodromus Florae Nepalensis (1825).
In 1829 the East India Company permitted Wallich to add several other collections of dried plants, also kept in the India museum, into his distribution scheme, ‘principally with a view to the distribution of their duplicates.’ On page 61, Wallich details these additional collections (herbaria), and recounts how they will be indicated in his listing.
2) ‘Herb. Madras’ is the large herbarium, with many duplicates, formed by Tranquebar Missionaries Johan Godfried (or Gottfried) Klein (1766-1821), Benjamin Heyne (1770-1819) & Johan Peter Röttler (1749-1836). There are also entries under their separate names, e.g. ‘Herb. Heyn.’, etc.
3) ‘Herb. Hamilt.’ is a very extensive herbarium, with few duplicates, collected in various parts of the Bengal Presidency in N India and Nepal by Francis Hamilton (formerly Buchanan and known as Buchanan-Hamilton, 1762-1829). This is sometimes abbreviated ‘Herb. Ham.’
5) ‘Herb. Finl.’ is a herbarium, with some duplicates, by George Finlayson (1790-1823), surgeon and naturalist to Crawfurd’s 1821 mission to Thailand and S. Vietnam. Contains some duplicates. Wallich also writes this as ‘Herb. Finlays.’ and ‘Herb. Finlayson’.
6) ‘Herb. Wight’ is a ‘most extensive herbarium collected in various parts of the peninsula of India’, with a great many duplicates, by Robert Wight (1798-1872), the Company’s Naturalist at Madras from 1826-1828. Also written as ‘Herb. Wt.’
On many occasions Wallich ‘cut corners’ with his abbreviations, often using ‘Hb.’ or ‘H.’ instead of writing out ‘Herb.’ as he originally intended. Wallich also used variant abbreviations when referring to people’s names, but in most cases these should be deducible from the above examples.
The main Wallich Catalogue project homepage gives background information on the Wallich Catalogue, and links to further explainatory pages as they are written.