Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

James Britten

Posted on by royvickery |

James_BrittenJames Britten (1846-1924) was a botanist on the staff of the British Museum. He was also a founder member of the Folklore Society, and in 1884 revived the then moribund Catholic Truth Society. In September 1870 he appealed in Notes & Queries for material for inclusion in a ‘small volume on folklore connected with plants’. This work was never published, but Britten made a major contribution to plant-lore studies when with Robert Holland he compiled the English Dialect Society’s Dictionary of English Plant-names, 1878-86. (This work is the source of most of the names included in Geoffrey Grigson’s Englishman’s Flora, 1955, though Grigson seems to have deliberately avoided acknowledging his debt to it).
Britten was a prolific writer on a wide range of topics, and his writings were published in an exceedingly wide range of publications including Hardwicke’s Science Gossip, The Journal of Botany (which he edited from 1879 until his death), The Tablet and a number of CTS pamphlets.
Stephen Miller is working on a longterm project to compile a bibliography of Britten’s work, and would appreciate learning of any publications which people come across; please send in information via the Plant-Lore website.

See: A.R. Vickery, James Britten: A founder member of the Folklore Society, Folklore 89: 71-4, 1978.

Selected contributions towards a bibliography
1863. Rare and exotic plants at Kew Bridge, Surrey, Journal of Botany, 1: 375-6.
1869. Spring flowers, Hardwicke’s Science Gossip: 122.
1873. The Angelus, Notes & Queries, 4 ser., 11: 255.
1873. Tennyson as a naturalist, Notes & Queries, 4 ser., 12: 177.
1874. Briar-root pipes, Notes & Queries, 5 ser., 1: 335.
1878. Plant-lore notes on Mrs Latham’s West Sussex Superstitions, Folk-lore Record, 1: 155-9.
1878. Index to folk-lore in the first series of Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip, vols. 1-2 (1865-76), Folk-lore Record, 1: 180-6.
1878-86. & R. Holland, A Dictionary of English Plant-names, London.
1879. Money spiders, Notes & Queries, 5 ser., 12: 518.
1880. Proverbs and folk-lore from William Ellis’s Modern Husbandman (1750), Folk-lore Record, iii.1: 80-6.
1881. Amulets in Scotland, Folk-lore Record, 4: 167-9.
1881. European Ferns, London.
1881. (ed.), J. Aubrey, Remaines of Gentilisme and Judiasme, London.
1882. Beetle folk-lore, Notes & Queries, 6 ser., 5: 386.
1883. Irish folk-tales, Folk-lore Journal, i.2: 52-3.
1883. Irish folk-tales, Folk-lore Journal, i.6: 184-7.
1883. Irish folk-tales, Folk-lore Journal, i.10: 316-24.
1883. Warwickshire customs, 1759-60, Folk-lore Journal, i.11: 351-3.
1884. & J. Hannen, Irish folk-tales. No. vi. The story of John and the amulet [continued], Folk-lore Journal, ii.7: 193-7.
1893. Plagiarism in high places [letter], Daily Chronicle, 19 January 1893.
1893. & G.S. Boulger, A Biographical Index of British and Irish Botanists, London; supplements published 1899, 1905 and 1908.
1896. The late Lord De Tabley, J. Bot., 34: 77-80.
1896. In memory of Henry Trimen, J. Bot., 34: 489-94.
1899. The shamrock, Gardeners’ Chronicle, 2 (ser.3): 203.
1907. Note on Rosa hibernica, J. Bot., 45: 30-5.
1907. A point on nomenclature, J. Bot., 45: 244-6.
1907. Bibliographical Notes XLII: Robert Brown’s Prodromus, J. Bot., , 45: 246-8.
1921. The true shamock and how to identify it, The Garden, 85: 139-40.
1921. The shamrock, The Month, 137: 193-205.
1922. The primrose and Primrose Day, The Month, April 1922 [reprint seen, volume number and pagination unknown].

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