Having thought more about old records and early dates and looked at my notes from the NHM visit, I need to correct my original post.
My mind had been set that many of the pinned iris in the NHM had actual dates rather than just years on their labels. When looking up my notes this wasn’t the case, most were simply years but several stated bred. There were no actual early dates in this collection. Whereas now, if someone bred iris they would release into the wild back in the 1800s anything bred was destined for the collection, I assume without doubt.
However, although the NHM didn’t have any dates, some other collections did. I had been asking curators to check their specimens because at the time in 2003, I was trying to locate a Hertfordshire iris. Many of the historic Hertfordshire sightings were hearsay with no absolute proof whereas many other county had definite records (pinned specimens)!
One of the museums had one from the New Forest date 10.06.1918 but doesn’t state whether bred whereas others in the collection do………….
Also Dave Miller sent me this….
“The year of the previous earliest sighting was 1893. I believe the climate records for that year actually show that it resembled 2011 with an amazingly warm spell in late April - and 2011 has had the warmest spring since... 1893. It is therefore possible that the Purple Emperor record may actually be genuine.
is a lovely piece of overblown Victorian prose about the year...”