HISTORY

It would undoubtedly become a very gifted family who build the Hofmansgave estate near the Funen coastline in rural Denmark in 1784.Between them, they left invaluable contributions to agriculture, the arts and certainly not least the natural sciences. Their significance can also be seen by the fact that they regularly played host to the famous fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen, but more on that later.

Niels Hofman Bang made the family home the center of Danish botanical research from the early 1800s and until his death in 1855. This largely coincided with the era that has been called. The Golden Age of Botany.By 1806, Niels had already located around 40 rare specimens, and he would make many valuable contributions to the famous atlas of botany, the Flora Danica.Niels had the great honor of having the Bangia algae named after him, and in 1840 he was knighted for his immense contributions to agricultural refinement and the science of botany.

His son Niels Erik and his foster daughter Caroline Rosenberg shared his passion for flora, and along with other famous botanists of their time, they collected thousands of specimens, not just around the estate, but also across Europe.They would often exchange plants with about 35 other significant European botanists such as Heinrich Anton de Bary and Ernst Ferdinand Nolte. This means that finds of many other renowned botanists are represented in the herbarium as well.

Being a true scientist, Niels Hofman Bang used an early microscope in his work. When Hans Christian Andersen visited the estate in 1830, he was offered a chance to view a single drop of water in the powerful microscope.Extatically he wrote a letter to a friend “would you imagine. Just a tiny drop of water on glass, but it was a whole world of creatures the largest in the shape of grasshoppers, the smallest the size of pinheads”. No doubt the experience inspired him to write the fairytale “A Drop of Water”.

The plants collected at the estate was meticulously attached to sheets of paper and annotated with details about the specimen, place, date and collector. Part of this herbarium was given to a cathedral college around the turn of the century. The Herbarium has been surveyed by the Danish Museum of Natural History.Henrik Ærenlund Pedersen, curator of the Danish Herbarium states “There is no doubt in my mind that this genuinely is Niels Hofman Bang’s Herbarium of vascular plants.” He adds that “The Herbarium is of great significance in a Danish floral context, not least because there is a large selection of plants that are close to or has reached extinction in Denmark.”

We have worked with a variety of museums to make sure the legacy of the Herbarium is secured. Every single sheet has been methodically photographed in very high resolution, and the text on each of the sheets has been carefully recorded. Not just for historical purposes, but also to be able to track changes in fauna and climate over the last 200 years.

Significant exemplars has been donated too relevant museums. The Danish Botanical Museum has received lots of important items of botanical significance as well as The National Museum has received a fine collection of Niels Hermans Bangs work. The Hans Christian Andersen Museum has been presented with exemplars dating from 1830, coinciding with the visit that most likely prompted him to write “A drop of water”. And finally a few local museums has received exemplars showing the work from Hofmansgave.