The Fry Herbals Collection

The following excerpts are ¬†from “The Book Collector, Spring 1973″, in an article entitled Herbals in the Fry Collection at the Taylor Institution.

Miss Sophy (Caroline) Fry, c.1890

Miss Sophy (Caroline) Fry, c.1890

The most interestingly varied collection acquired by the Library in recent years is that presented by the Misses Esther Catherine, Susan Mary and Josephine Fry in 1955. This collection, formerly housed in the family home (The Manor House, Upton, near Didcot, Berks.), includes a wide range of editions of standard authors and background material directly useful to the Taylorian; our subject here is a section of the collection whose intrinsic interest is perhaps in inverse proportion to its usefulness to the majority of the Taylorian’s users; a group of 95 herbals and early works on natural history, chiefly botany…

These books were the property of Miss Caroline Sophia Fry (1861-1946), aunt of the collection’s donors. I owe to the kindness of Miss Josephine Fry much of the following information regarding her aunt’s life and family history, which may serve as a background to what has come to be known as the Fry Herbals collection; additional details were kindly provided by Mrs Mary Chittty.

Miss Sophy, as she seems to have been generally known, was neither professional botanist nor bibliographer; but through she received little formal education, she came of a cultivated family and was fluent in several languages (she was taught Hebrew by the vicar of the parish, the Rev. Richard Hooper, M.A. (1822-95), and read Dante daily with one of her sisters). The three sisters led quiet retired lives at Upton, but their many talents and accomplishments were at the service of the community; between them they trained the church choir, played the organ, gave music lessons, held sewing classes and so on.

… Miss Sophy’s interest in botany was fostered also by the vicar of Upton, Mr Hooper; 15 volumes in the collection come from him. Eleven of these bear his printed book label, with the legend The Reverend Richard Hooper, M.A., Vicar of Upton and Aston Upthorpe, Berks., and one of Dr Bray’s Associates, For himself and friends printed in red and black.