Biographies of the Fern Mounters
The Collections





Mrs C C Armstrong in Dunedin

Mrs Armstrong was a prolific producer of fern albums and related materials, including collages with photographs surrounded by ferns. She called herself a 'fern artist' and has a long entry in the Dictionary of Australian Artists ( with detailed biographical information.

Mary Ann Newey married Charles Clark Armstrong, both from England, in Victoria. After the mid Otago gold strike, Charles moved on to Dunedin in 1861. His wife and 2 children followed a year later, in 1862. They eventually had 11 children. Charles ran greengrocery shops and then bought the Union Hotel in Dunedin. His business was not particularly successful and after he became bankrupt they moved to Melboune. In the 1882 property records, Charles Armstrong owned property valued at £125.

Mrs Armstrong gained publicity for her work by exhibiting in both local and international exhibitions. She advertised in newspapers and her works were also sold by booksellers and stationers. After most of the family returned to Australia, her eldest son, Charles Clark Armstrong junior, stayed on in New Zealand, sending NZ ferns to his mother in Melbourne, and himself creating a variety of fern decorated materials. It is likely that she had considerable help from family members in creating her output.

Her first noted exhibit was at the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879. She entered 'a collection of New Zealand ferns in natural colours, dried' as Mrs C C Armstrong. Her husband entered a model boat. However, when the awards were announced they were both to Mr. C. C Armstrong!  Her entry in the Dunedin exhibition of 1882 was described as follows. 'In the far corner of the right hand wall is displayed five frames of photographs surrounded by New Zealand ferns artistically arranged. These are exhibited by Mrs C C Armstrong of Dunedin, whose collections of ferns are so well-known and universally admired. Mrs Armstrong has take prizes at Paris, Melbourne, Sydney and Dunedin for her fern exhibits. The first picture on the left hand is appropriately a scene on the Hokitika ...' etc. Bound albums of such collages created around either her own photographs or those of the Burton brothers, are very occasionally offered for sale, but she is best known for her sets of fern cards and her bound albums of ferns. She wrote the fern names in long hand, usually at the top of each sheet, not using printed labels at this period. Her albums usually contain a small printed label. She did not offer wood cased albums.

Mrs C C Armstrong in Melbourne

In 1887 her husband was bankrupt and the family moved to Melbourne, leaving her eldest son, Charles Clark Armstrong junior, in Dunedin. In Melbourne she arranged for her daughter and son-in-law to set up The New Zealand Fern Company, with the express intention of publishing a new enterprise, The South Pacific Fern Album. This was to have a printed text section followed by a section or sections of Australasian ferns. Charles was to collect and supply the New Zealand ferns and we know that he did in fact send pressed ferns woth £75 per quarter to Australia.

Copies of the South Pacific Fern Album are known to exist in various states. At least 2 copies in Australian museums have the printed section followed by an 18 or 20 page section of mounted ferns headed 'New Zealand Section'. Copies are known consisting of just the text section, with no evidence of there having been a pressed fern section. Other copies are know with the mounted fern sheets but no text section, such as the copy here illustrated in the gallery which has 30 sheets of New Zealand ferns.  For these albums her son-in-law produced printed labels, which are placed at various levels on the page, always close to the fern. All versions of the South Pacific Fern Album are uncommon.

Charles Clark Armstrong (junior)

Charles stayed in Dunedin after the family returned to Melbourne, establishing a photographer's shop. He became a fern collector, sending specimens to Melbourne. A fern album with the label opposite and a cardboard box of fern mounted cards  with a purple ink stamp 'C. C. Armstrong / fern artist', have been seen. Much of his output has probably been previously attributed to his mother, but the wording 'C C Armstrong' , without the title 'Mrs', would never have been used by his mother.

Charles label

George Kingdon Burton, Nelson

Burton was born in New Zealand in 1860. The 1882 NZ property list has only one Burton owning freehold property in Nelson, a George Burton, who may well have been his father. (needs researching)

In 1884 there is a press report of Burton producing a lithographed Christmas card.

In 1885 another report in the Nelson Mail, 31 December, is of two fern albums that he had prepared to send to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London. One had mottled kauri wood covers, made in Auckland. The second had a back cover of mottled kauri, the front cover being inlaid with seven different types of NZ wood, 192 pieces. The inlay work was executed by George Fleming, a Nelson cabinet maker who owned a large furniture and furnishing store.
Fleming sold 'very handsome boxes in New Zealand wood, with 50 varieties and 500 pieces' (1870). He had won many prizes at exhibitions for his inlay work, but this was only a very small part of his general business. Fleming was also the local undertaker.

Burton also sent two 'handsomely framed cards of ferns, aspleniums and adiantums, the frames being carved by Mr Sharland of Collingwood Street, to the London exhibition.

Burton albums are not common. Those most usually seen have a front cover decorated with parquetry, in many different designs. He labelled his specimens with thin printed labels placed adjacent to the specimen. His layout of the ferns was quite different from that used by Craig, Cranwell, Armstrong etc. He mounted several specimens of the same fern on each page and only occasionally placed a small amount of moss by the bottom of one of the fern stipes. He never arranged his specimens as if they were all growing from the same spot, prefering a more traditional herbarium type of layout.

The 2 Burton albums seen both have a diamond shaped leather label with NEW ZEALAND FERNS embossed in gold, inlaid into the centre of the front panel.

Burton is reported to have collected the fern specimens that he used for his first exhibition entries over the two years prior to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition.

Burton moved to Christchurch where he was very active on various school and council committees and supporting political meetings. His occupation is not known . (needs researching)


Eric Craig, Auckland

Eric Craig was born in Scotland but his parents moved to Tewksbury when he was vey yound.. He emigrated first to Australia, then in 1852 on to New Zealand. He married a widow with property in Princess Street, Auckland ,and had 5 children.
Craig practiced as a builder and joiner before eventually setting up his 'Fern Emporium and Curiosity Shop' in Princess Street, Auckland.  From his correspondence we know that he was collecting ferns as early as 1874 but his first advertisment of ferns for sale was in 1875, three years later than Thomas Cranwell.

Craig produced a wide range of fern albums and cards over a long selling career. Early on he advertised sets of up to 100 varieties of ferns. He also dealt in foriegn ferns and had a large personal herbarium of over 1400 varieties which became the basis of the foriegn herbarium of the Auckland Museum. The undated list illustrated is probably from his mid career as his later top of the range albums contained 152 varieties of ferns.

The first press report of Craig's albums with carved wooden covers was of his contribution of two volumes to the Sydney Exhibition of 1879. The report states that the album covers were carved by Mr Batts of the Ponsonby area of Auckland. This could have been Thamas Batts senior or William Batts, who both practiced as carvers and frett cutters. It is likely that they carved all of Craig's album covers. The same report states that the fern names were legibly written below each specimen, so early albums may have written names rather than the printed labels generally seen.

Eric Craig stamped all of his cards on the back with his shop stamp in a characteristic violet colour. He sometimes labelled a specimen with ink of this colour if he had no printed label available. His albums generally have the same stamp on the frontispiece and on the back of the last sheet. They also generally have a yellow coloured printed label fixed to the top outer margin of the inner cover, but this may be lost if the album has been rebound. Later in his career some items (such as the fern cards mounted in bown backing sheets) were advertised for sale by stationers such as Whate.

      listing of Eric Craig's fern output

  • Fern mounted folded Christmas cards (sold by Mr Whate)
  • Cards 5¼ x 4¼ in, slotted into folding brown backing sheets, 12 or 24 to a sheet. Largest set size 96 varieties.
  • Cards 7 x 5 in, in sets of from 10 to 100, sold in paper packets or in polished Kauri wood boxes
  • Cards, 10 x 8 in, sold in sets or in Kauri wood boxes. The cards seen have a violet coloured paper cover glued to the top of the back
  • Cards, 17 x 10 in, sold in sets or in Kauri wood boxes, the most expensive box in the range having a carved top
  • Albums with ferns mounted on paper leaves, 2 sizes advertised, cloth bound or leather bound
  • Albums with ferns mounted on card leaves, 2 sizes advertised, cloth bound or leather bound
  • Albums with carved covers of plain or mottled kauri wood, the top of the range also being gilded (at least 5 different qualities)
  • General purpose collecting albums filled with ferns (not advertised)
  • Sets of unmounted labelled pressed ferns suitable for teaching or for museums
  • Living ferns for planting and Wardian cases filled with ferns

      Eric Craig at Manchester Museum

The images of items in the Manchester Museum are provided for personal study only. For their use for any other purpose, contact

 The Curator of Botany , The Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK

The museum holds 2 sets of Eric Craig cards.

The first are a set of 31 small (8
¼ x 5½in) cards, each with a protective white tissue paper cover glued along the top edge. These are the smallest cards that Craig produced in sets. They are identical in size to those of the set of 100 cards also illustrated. That set shows no signs of ever having had paper covers attached to the cards. Each card is stamped with Craig's violet coloured shop stamp on the back.

The Manchester Museum set of small cards are housed in the original mottled Kauri wood box. The box and its contents were acquired by transfer from St. Helen's Museum in 1977.

The second set, 17½ x 10½ in cards, are the largest cards that Craig produced and are the same size as the card pages in his large albums. The cards originally had coloured tissue covers glued along the back of the top edges, long since lost. Three colours of tissue were used, violet, pink and blue. Each card is stamped on the back with Craig's shop stamp.

This set of cards were originally presented to Salford Museum by Mr D Hague of Breeze Hill, Kelsall, in 1916. They were transferred to Manchester Museum in 2003. At that time those cards which had several small specimens mounted were cut up and the small sections mounted onto individual herbarium sheets, so that all could be inserted in the relevant places in the herbarium of New Zealand Ferns. The cards have now been extracted from the general collection and are housed together in a single museum box. So far 88 complete (uncut) cards and 40 sections of cards have been identified. The set as purchased was probably of 100 cards.


      Thomas Cranwell, Auckland

Thomas Cranwell (1847-1907). His family emigrated from England to New Zealand in 1862, part of the 'Albertlanders' emigration. He taught music for the Auckland authorities and was conductor and secretary of the Auckland tonic-sol-far society. He exhibited bulbous plants and fruit in local flower shows and lectured locally on the cultivation of daffodils, a recent introduction to New Zealand.

His father and brother Robert were a cabinet makers. Robert had his own furniture business in Auckland before joining with the firm of Holloway and Garlick. Robert exhibited his furniture at The Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London, 1886. He later established extensive orchards (Pomeria) in Auckland and was a very successful businessman.

The first press report of a Cranwell album was in September 1870 in the Daily Southern Cross. The albums had card leaves and were enclosed in book covers of mottled kauri, polished and ornamented with a suitable border. 'The cetre-piece of the left cover is rusticated with the words "New Zealand Ferns" in raised letters. The binding is in ornamental leather and was made by Mr Leighton. The price is from £2 10s to £3 according to quality and copies may be had at Mr. Wayte's.'

In December 1871 a second report appeared in the same paper concluding "may be obtained from booksellers in town, or from Mr Cranwell, and they are 'especially suitable for presents to English friends'.

In addition to the albums with carved kauri boards, Cranwell also produced a small number of larger sized albums of extremely high quality with front and rear boards inlaid with parquetry and marquetry. The boards for these albums were produced by Anton Seuffert of Auckland, the leading cabinet maker in New Zealand , who specialised in such inlay work. Some of the Cranwell/Seuffert albums were supplied with purpose made boxes of polished kauri, with a carved lid. The pattern carved on the lids of these boxes has many features in common with the carving of his quarto albums and there are pointers to both having been carried out by Anton Teutenberg. Teutenberg, the leading Auckland carver, had also set up a lapiday business. One known Cranwell album  has cabochons (of amber or kauri gum) inlaid in to the cover, in addition to the usual carving, very suggestive of the involvement of a lapidary.

Anthon Seuffert and his sons also produced inlaid 'fern boxes' in a variety of sizes and it is possible that some of these boxes were originally made to hold Cranwell's card mounted ferns (not seen). The known Cranwell/Seuffert albums are all of folio size. A quarto album with covers by Seuffert (father or son) illustrated in the gallery is not mounted by Thomas Cranwell. It has been used to house a set of octavo fern cards which probably predated both Cranwell and Craig's work.

Cranwell's first advert for fern cards and beatiful fern albums was in 1872. He did not advertise widely and his output was probably relatively small.


      William Reid & Miss Annie Reid, Dunedin

William Reid was a prosperous nurseryman, seed grower and seed merchant. The site of his first nursery soon became prime building land (now in the centre of Dunedin) and was offered for sale as 200 building plots. He supplied the garden trade and also imported agricultural and forestry seeds by the ton. He sent his own represenntitives to North America, Britain and Norway to source his seeds and bulbs.

In 1885 he sold most of his business and moved to a new retail premises in the Grand Hotel Buildings, Dunedin High Street and advertised himself as a florist for the first time, 'bouquets for weddings and balls at very short notice'. His property was valued in 1882 as almost £4,000. A few years later he was advertising 'money to lend on freehold'.

The William Reid albums seen have the ferns mounted on card, with linen hinges. The layouts are less elaborated than those of Eric Craig or Mrs Armstrong but they do have a small cushion of moss over the base of each stipe. All of the albums are of high quality. The specimens are always labelled by hand, never with printed labels.

Some William Reid albums have a printed sticker 'W. Reid, / Florist and Fern Collector... Fern Albums and Cards neatly mounted'   Other albums have no such label but are otherwise identical – one has a gift inscription for 1898.

Reid's printed labels indicate that he sold fern cards. The only examples seen were mounted on 10 x 8in photographic mounts.

Two small Z-fold albums with a white sticker printed in black 'Miss A Reid, Fern Mounter, Dunedin, New Zealand'. Her mounting style is quite different from her father's, with no clear distinct netween the central named fern and the decorative ferns. Her hand writing is distinct from her father's. In 1900 she moved to Christchurch where she opened a florists shop with her sister, and continued to advertise herself as a 'fern artist'. She is known to have produced larger albums, but none have been personally examined.

It seems likely that after 20 years running a very successful nursery and seed business, Reid wanted to reduce his activities. His wife and several members of the family are recorded in the electoral registers as florists. He describes himself, in a flyer advertising Annie's fern albums, as a fern collector, and a collector and exporter of seeds of rare native plants.


Professional albums by unidentified mounters

Three items of common origin are illustrated in the galleries

1) An album of Australian ferns bound in dull purple cloth, with the title 'FERNS III' on the spine. The specimens are labelled by hand, with the area from which they were gathered also noted. The bulk of the ferns are Australian, from New South Wales. A single fern is from Fiji and another from New Guinea.

2) A folder in the same coloured cloth, blocked in gilt on the front and in blind on the back with a crescent of ferns, originally having ties to hold it closed. The folder contains 24 cards of Australian ferns, labelled by had in the same handwriting as item 1. Despite the contents being of Australian ferns, the ferns on the motif of the front cover are New Zealand (Trichomanes renefore being a NZ endemic, not found in Australia).

3) A linen and card portfolio in the same colour as items 1 & 2 and with identical blocking as items 2, gilt on the front cover and blind on the back. The back board has 3 flaps to hold the fern cards. The main specimens on the cards are of New Zealand ferns but some of the small decorative items at the base of each specimen are not native NZ ferns (eg the golden Pityrogamma).

The identity of the mounter of these 3 items is not yet known. It is likely that these items were produced in Melbourne by The New Zealand Fern Company (ie the Armstrong family), but until further evidence is found this is still a matter of speculation.



Joseph & James Flintoft, Keswick

Joseph Flintoft, 1796-1860, was a man of independant means, having married a wealthy widow. He moved to Keswick in 1823. His unmarried son, Joseph James, 1826-1877, lived with his father. He was generally known as James whilst his father was alive.

Albums of pressed ferns from the English Lake District and also albums of pressed mosses were produced by Joseph (father) and Joseph James (son) over a period from the 1850s into the 1860s but precise dating is very difficult as they were not usually dated. The cover titles take a number of forms and there are a variety of title pages but often no title page is present. Some of the albums were produced for the Flintofts by Charles Thunam of Carlisle, the leading local book binder and printer, having his binder's ticket pasted in.

No contemporary advertisments for the Flintoft albums have been found. Joseph Flintoft (and later James) exhibited a large scale model of the Lake District in a room over Keswick town hall, during the summer season, a great local attraction now housed in Keswick Museum. The albums were probably offered for sale at this exhibition.

Joseph Flintoft also contributed sets of panoramic drawngs of the Lake District peaks to two of the local guide books (Black's guide and Huson's guide).

Flintoft Fern Albums

The mostly commonly seen Fern albums have covers of red grained book cloth. The gilt title is enclosed in an elaborate cartouche. There are usually 37 pages of specimens, always in the same order. The Joseph Flintoft title page says collected and arranged by J. Flintoft. The James Flintoft page says prepared and arranged by J. James Flintoft. The specimens are labelled in script with the Latin name, vernacular name and location found, usually over 3 lines. Less elaborate covers, in green and in blue, are probably earlier productions than the common red covered albums. The latin names of the ferns included changed during the course of production of these albums, the earliest albums using the names given by Francis: An analysis of the British Ferns and their Allies, 1837. The later albums used the more modern nomenclature of Newman: A History of British Fern, 1840.
The Flintoft albums were never advertised for sale. Joseph Flintoft had made a large plaster of paris model of the Lake District which he had on display in Keswick from 1839 onwards and was a major visitor attraction. Guide books, lake views and the albums were offered for sale at the exhibition, which was open each Summer season. A very small number of Flintoft fern albums assembled in commercially available scrap albums are known. These probably started out as exhibits in the model room, being sold off later by his son James. Such an album, by the well known firm of Marcus Web, is illustrated in the galleries.

early album
early album
standard album
31 page early album.
Spine unlettered
No title page
37 page early album.
Spine unlettered
Title page of J. Flintoft
(Yale University Library)
37 page more common early album.
Spine with gilt lettering
Title page of J James Flintoft

title page

Josepf Flintoft

An early Flintoft fern album assembled in a commercially available scap album
only four such albums have been located

Flintoft Moss Albums

The majority of the moss albums seen are cased in a royal blue grained cloth (a red binding has also been seen).  Two differnt cover titles are illustrated and two different title pages. Many of the albums do not have a printed title page. Most of the albums have 47-51 pages of specimens but albums with 31 and with 89 pages are also known. There is considerable variation in the species of mosses included but they are always mounted in the same species order. The 1858 album illustrated below has a differently worded cover title, suggesting that this is perhaps an early example, before Flintoft's Collection was applied to the moss albums.

An unusual example with an atypical cover title.
The title page is here printed on a separate sheet and glued into the album.
It is not usual for the title page to be dated.      
An example of the usual cover title.
This is the commonly seen printed title page, an integral part of the book block.

Miss Maria Wright

There are many reference in the literature to 'Miss Wright of Keswick'. Her father, Charles Hewer Wright, was a Lakeland guide, collector and seller of geological and botanical specimens from his shop in Keswick. Most of their botanical specimens were probably sold as individual herbarium sheets and are not marked with the collector's name. A recent find of a fern album with full labelling has allowed her cover label and specimen labels to be identified and should lead to the uncovering of further examples of her work

Wright label
Wright cover label
The label inside a fern album by Maria Wright
A paper cover label used by Maria Wright



Wilhelm Lasch (1787-1863) & Carl Baenitz (1837-1913)

Wilhelm Lasch was a pharmacist and Karl Baenitz taught botany in several parts of North Germany. Both were avid botanical collectors and their specimens are found in many German herbaria.

Together they produced a number of 'herbaria' for sale. After Laschs' death, Baenitz set about his magnum opus, a herbarium of 40 volumes of all the plants of Europe. There is a set in the Ashmolean museum in Oxford.

The part set (2 of 6 fascicles) illustrated in the gallery is typical of their work. It was produced in 1860 with a second release a few years later



Individully produced personal albums of Jamaican ferns are known but no professionally produced bound albums have been seen.

A professionally produced portfolio enclosing 40 pre printed sheets mounted with Jamaican ferns is illustrated. Its provenance is not known



Jamaican ferns were used in the construction of a variety of souveniers, particularly doileys (always spelt doyleys in the Jamaican dialect), larger table decorations, fixed fans and folding fans. They are always mounted on a lace like bark cloth made from the Jamaican lace-bark tree, Largetta lintearia, strengthened by a cut out border of material from either the Jamaican cabbage palm, Areca oleracea, or the darker coloured Bread Fruit, Attocarpus incisa. Some doyleys have a fringe made of the seeds of Calopteris procera, known locally as French cotton. The earliest descriptions of the doyleys (1868) do not mention the fringe.

These doyleys were made initially by English ladies and examples were sent to various international exhibitions. They were sold by them to raise monies for the local Kingston church and its orphanage.

In 1879 a "women's self-help society" was set up, initially in Kingston, with the aim of helping to relieve poverty. The women were taught to make a variety of souveniers which were sold at the self help society's depot and on the local market. Very many sets of doyleys were produced, of varying quality. They were sold in decorated paper or card folders in sets of 6 or 12 and included a short explanation of the materials used in their construction. The doyleys themselves are usually much better preserved than the covers. Production probably continued well into the twentieth centtury.

A selection of doyleys from a variety of sources are illustrated. The fans are much scarcer. One printed sheet with a fan sold for orphanage funds says that ther ferns were collected by the girls of he orphanage.



Mrs P Jaffrey, Darjeeling

Mrs Phoebe Jaffrey was the third wife of Andrew Thomas Jaffrey, the first curator of the Lloyd Botanic Gardens in Darjeeling, 1878-1885
During this period Mrs Jaffrey created a number of albums, usually of large folio size, mounted with excellent specimens of local ferns.
Very little is so far known about Mrs Jaffrey, who had strong Scottish connections. She died within a few years of her husband
The album illustrated in the gallery is dated 1882 on the first and last specimen labels.
There is a large collection of her albums in the Natural History Museum, London and three of her albums are in the museum of Dundee University.
The albums were sold singly, sets of two and sets of three albums
Albums dated before 1882 do not  have her pink label fixed inside the front cover but are readily identified by her style of mounting and unique specimen labels.