A Herbarium is a collection of dried plants preserved for botany studies. This material, duly gathered, preserved and recorded, constitutes basic information for the study of plants. The Historic Herbariums of the University are composed of three separate herbariums: Pedro Abat’s Herbarium (1700 sheets), Claudio and Esteban Boutelou’s Herbarium (4200 sheets) and the Ancient Herbarium of the University.
Pedro Abat’s Historic Herbarium (1748-1800?) is the most ancient one preserved in the University of Seville. Pedro Abat was trained as a pharmacist in Igualada (Barcelona), studied in Montpellier (France) and arrived in Seville in 1786 as the first Botanist Partner of the Royal Society of Medicine and other Sciences of Seville. The University preserves a collection of unknown provenance and dating back to his study period, which he acquired in Montpellier. This small herbarium is from 1770 approximately and has a pharmaceutical purpose, that is, it’s similar to current books on medicinal herbs. Every sheet presents an explanation of the qualities and uses of the plant it contains, as well as a model specimen to learn recognising the plant which is to be used for every disease.
Upon his arrival in Seville, Pedro Abat brought his herbarium mainly composed of plants from Igualada and its surroundings, from Cartuja de Montealegre and plants which he collected on the route towards Seville, mostly from El Palmar (Rascafría, Madrid). Once in possession of his load, he organised the garden of the academy, where he planted seeds he had been collecting in the provinces of Seville and Cádiz, along with quite a few species of American provenance which he was sent from the botanic garden of Cartagena, leading to build a significant herbarium.
The second Historical Herbarium is the one of Claudio and Esteban Boutelou brothers. The Boutelou family is a long line of Swiss gardeners who came to Spain together with Philip V, first Bourbon in Spain. Claudio and Esteban (1776-1813) were granted a pension by the Royal House to study in Paris and London (there are some materials dating back to this period). On their return, they served the King in the Royal Sites of Madrid, Aranjuez and in the Botanic Garden of Madrid until the French invasion. Claudio was appointed director of the Royal Botanic Garden of Madrid during the French occupation and saved it from its destruction, since it would have been turned into a barrack for the French troops. Nonetheless, this charge earned him the exile from Madrid after the Restoration. He was later appointed accountable for all the King’s lands of the Ancient Kingdom of Seville and Botany Professor.
There are also some materials collected during several botanical expeditions conducted at the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th. From the expedition to New Spain (1785-1803), wild and cultivated materials are left in the Botanic Garden of Madrid, since the ships that carried all the sheets sank during the trip to the peninsula. From the expedition to the Viceroyalty of Peru and Chile (1777-1788), materials are preserved both from Peru and Chile, and from the expedition to Guantanamo (1796-1082), there are materials left from Havana and its surroundings.
The largest number of preserved materials comes, however, from Malaspina’s expedition around the world. There are sheets from Chile, Mariana Islands and New Spain, among other places, the majority with the original labelling by L. Neé, the expedition botanist. A sheet is left from this expeditionwith an original icon drawn in pen by L. Neé, the expedition illustrator. The drawing is of high quality and very detailed, although the available means to realize it were not the present ones.
Some sheets are also left from the expedition to Antilles carried out by C.M. Richard (1785-1789) and from Commerson’s (1766-1769) trip around the world: Pebble Island (now Réunion), Madagascar, French Island (in the Melbourne bay) and Strait of Magellan.
These materials are very important because of their value in identifying species. A. J. Cavanilles, M. Lagasca and M. Willkomm are some of the botanists of the time who described species on the basis of the elements preserved in this Herbarium.
The third Herbarium, the Ancient Herbarium of the University, is based on the Boutelou brother’s Herbarium. When the Botany Chair of Seville was created, C. Bouteloudivided his herbarium keeping one copy himself and leaving the other to the Chair. When it passed to the University, the Herbarium too was incorporated to the University. The herbarium kept growing thanks to the professors’ contribution, in particular Miguel Colmeiro and Francisco de las Barras y Aragón. Other botanists who took part in the expansion of the Herbarium and in its preservation were Romualdo González Fragoso and Manuel Paul y Arozarena. There are also further sheets that come from exchanges with other botanists, such as Francisco López Guijarro, Jules Richard or Brother Sennen and his correspondents.
At first, after being donated, the historical collections of this herbarium belonged to the Old Cabinet of Natural History of the U. S. (1850), located in a gallery in the second department of the Faculty of Science of the Seville University, in the Ancient Jesuit Professed House (now location of the Faculty of Fine Arts in calle Laraña). They remained there until 1943 when the Royal Botanic Garden of Madrid, by initiative of Francisco de las Barras, requested their transfer together with the herbal collection of the Seville Institute San Isidoro, saving them from their withdrawal as a deposit. In 1970 professor Emilio Fernández Galeano starts proceedings to get the historic herbariums back to Seville, and in 1974 they are located in the Botany Department of sciences. In 1998 the General Herbarium Service of the University of Seville was created through the union of biology, pharmacy and historical herbariums. Lately in 2013 the General Herbarium Service has been relocated in some new facilities in the CITIUS – Celestino Mutis Building of the University.