Archives and Manuscript Collections
NORMAN TAYLOR PAPERS (1900-1967)
21.3 linear feet (38 boxes)
Taylor (1883-1967) is primarily recognized as the author of the perennial
horticulture reference work, Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening.
He was botanical editor for Webster's New International Dictionary
(ca. 1945) and the American Heritage Dictionary (ca. 1960). Additionally,
he authored one of the first popular books on psycho-active plants, Flight
from Reality (1949), later reprinted as Narcotics, Nature's Dangerous
Gifts (1961), and other popular works on gardening and nature conservation.
Taylor was born in Hereford, England in 1883 and emigrated with his
parents, two brothers, and a sister to Yonkers, New York in 1889. He was
naturalized in 1896. As a child and youth he was plagued by illness, which
forced him first to leave grammar school then high school. After two years
at Cornell University as a special student in agriculture and horticulture,
he began working in the Forestry Department of the New York Zoological
Park as a plant maintainer. During this period he met Nathaniel Lord Britton,
who hired him as a museum assistant at The New York Botanical Garden and
who became his personal tutor in botany. Taylor accompanied Britton as
a collector on his field trip to Inagua in 1904 and worked with G.V. Nash
as a collector in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Other expeditions in
which Taylor participated were to Cuba, Haiti, and Turk's Island.
In 1911, Taylor was appointed Curator of Plants of the new Brooklyn
Botanical Garden. He helped lay out the grounds and did intensive studies
on the flora of Long Island. He walked nearly 2,000 miles over all of Long
Island, mapping locations of plant families. He became interested in recording
the sites of giant trees, a subject he would return to in The Ageless
Relicts, the Story of Sequoia, published in 1963. During his career
at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Taylor consulted with Robert Moses on
the planning of State Parks in Long Island and was instrumental in having
Montauk Point declared a State Park. While at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden,
Taylor was named editor (1917-1919) of the Journal of the International
Garden Club. This led to many lectures at society garden clubs throughout
In 1928 Taylor was engaged by the Chicle Development Company to search
for chicle, chicle substitutes, and gutta percha in Brazil. He wrote to
magazine, suggesting an article on chewing gum. Fortune wrote back,
asking him to write an article on the story of Cinchona. This was published
in 1934 and circulated throughout the cinchona industry, leading to his
appointment in 1936 as Director of the Cinchona Institute in New York,
non-profit research institute connected to the quinine industry of Holland.
Taylor served as liaison to the American medical community, and as spokesperson
within the United States for the prevention and treatment of malaria. He
retired from this position in 1951.
Norman Taylor's popular writing career began in 1920 while he was still
associated with the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. He wrote a series of articles
on the appreciation of nature under the name "The Naturalist" for the New
York Evening Post. After some attempts to publish work on non-botanical
topics, he was recommended by Nathaniel Lord Britton as editor of botany,
ornamental horticulture and forestry for Webster's New International Dictionary
(2nd ed.) (1926-1934). Years later, his dissatisfaction
with the management of the Merriam-Webster Company led to his work on the
American Heritage Dictionary, published in 1965.
Taylor left the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in 1929 and after two years
of negotiation began the first edition of The Garden Dictionary,
a work that would become a horticulture standard, having four editions
and spanning thirty years. The first edition was awarded the Gold Medal
of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1936. The second edition
appeared under the title Taylor's Garden Encyclopedia, as did all
subsequent editions. Taylor's publisher, Houghton-Mifflin, continues to
issue a series of horticulture books under the name Taylor's Guides.
In the 1950s, Taylor contracted with Van Nostrand publishers and produced
a series of seven books on garden topics. He was one of the first professionals
to encourage organic gardening and his Encyclopedia provided a platform
for the dissemination of those ideas to the general public. Additionally,
Taylor's knowledge and contacts in the medicinal plant world led to Flight
from Reality (1949) and Plant Drugs that Changed the World
He was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Washington College in Chestertown,
Maryland in 1958. The New York Botanical Garden presented to him its Distinguished
Service Award in 1961 and the American Horticultural Society honored him
with its Liberty Hyde Bailey Medal in 1963. Taylor was a member of the
Explorer's Club, the Players Club, the Century Club, and the Cosmos Club.
Norman Taylor attributed his love of travel to his childhood stays at
Brighton. After his numerous expeditions on behalf of The New York Botanical
Garden, and the Cinchona Institute, he continued his peripatetic lifestyle,
touring the world with his wife Margaretta Stephenson one third of the
year, and dividing the remainder between their homes on West Tenth Street
in Manhattan and their beloved estate, Elmwood, in St. Anne, Maryland,
which he had purchased on his retirement from the Cinchona Institute (1951).
Norman Taylor died at Elmwood in November 1967.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The Norman Taylor Papers contain correspondence, manuscripts, bound
volumes, journals, notes, clippings, scrapbooks, maps, photographs, pamphlets,
lantern slides, medals, index cards and containers, and specimens relating
to his professional life and work Taylor traveled extensively and
luxuriously, and a significant amount of material has informational value
related to his lifestyle. Other information contained in the collection
concerns the workings of the private social and professional clubs of which
he was a member. Field notebooks have been removed to the Collectors' Field
Series 1: Cinchona Scientific File
Series 2: Cinchona Products Institute
Series 3: Flora of Long Island
Series 4: Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening
Series 5: Catalogs
Series 6: Publications
Series 7: Contracts
Series 8: Unpublished Work
Series 9: Lecture Notes and Lantern Slides
Series 10: Social Correspondence
Series 11: Studies
Series 12: Expeditions and Travel
Series 13 Awards
Series 14: Personal Files
Series 15: Negatives
Series 1 Cinchona
Scientific File, 1915-1951
2.5 lin. ft. Arranged geographically and by subject.
This series contains research data on the incidence and control of malaria
in many of the states in the United States. Other materials in this series
are research papers on the cultivation and quality of the cinchona found
in tropical countries. Photographs on the locating and production of cinchona
in Colombia, and manuscripts, notes, and a bibliography for Taylor's work
on the history of cinchona are found in that folder. Cinchona specimens
are found in the Philippines folders and folders labeled as such. Taylor
donated his files on malaria to the New York Academy of Medicine and his
files on Cinchona to The New York Botanical Garden in 1966. Oversize material
from this series is found in Box 2.
Series 2 Cinchona
Products Institute, 1937-1954
1.5 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
Taylor headed the Cinchona Products Institute from its inception in
1937 until it closed in 1954. Materials in this file relate to the work
done by Taylor in promoting the use of quinine to the general public and
within the medical profession. A professional public relations firm produced
radio scripts relating to quinine. Also here are files on other medicinal
plants which were being considered for cultivation and promotion by the
Cinchona-Instituut in Amsterdam. Notable in this series is a holographic
letter from the Countess de Cinchon, which may have decorated Taylor's
office. A chronological file of all of Taylor's correspondence with the
Cinchona-Instituut traces the history of this cartel during the war. Oversize
educational and prevention posters from around the world are found in Box
Series 3 Flora of
Long Island, 1917-1925
1.66 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
This series contains lists and maps and notes for a comprehensive study
of Long Island flora, arranged by Engler and Prantl families. Each folder
contains maps of locations of the particular families. Of particular interest
is the written and photographic record of big trees in Long Island and
records of Long Island forests. Also included in this series is Taylor's
study of Gardiner's Island, which he wanted the State of New York to develop
into a preservation area. Photographs from this study are found in Box
14. Taylor advised Robert Moses while he was planning Long Island's State
Parks, and correspondence and clippings related to his efforts in creating
a preservation area at Hempstead Plains and Montauk are found here, along
with correspondence on the subject from Elizabeth Britton. Taylor also
collaborated with Arthur Hollick on a report on the historic significance
of Fox Island Beach and appeared as an expert witness in a court case related
to the preservation of the Beach.
Series 4 Taylor's
Encyclopedia of Gardening, 1932-1966
4.5 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
This series contains the proposals, manuscripts, publishers' contracts,
correspondence, reviews, and promotional memorabilia related to the successive
editions of Taylor's most enduring work. Although originally titled The
Garden Dictionary, by the 2nd edition in 1942 it had been
renamed Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening. The perpetual subject
files, named by Taylor himself, contain information pertinent to the entire
scope of issues covered in the encylopedia. Pamphlets found in those files
have been removed and are now housed with the New York Botanical Garden
general collection. Other published material by Taylor is found in Series
6: Publications and Series 2: Cinchona Products Institute. Unpublished
work by Taylor is in Series 8: Unpublished Work. Taylor's lectures and
notes are found in Series 9: Lecture Notes and Lantern Slides.
Series 5 Catalogs,
5 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
This series contains nursery catalogs which Taylor kept either for reference
in his writings or for use at Elmwood. Some catalogs have been removed
and are now housed with the Garden's Seed Catalog Collection.
Series 6 Publications,
1.33 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically.
The Publications series contains all of Taylor's published works, apart
from Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening. Of interest here is the
transition from his scientific to his popular work through a series of
articles he wrote under the pseudonym "The Naturalist," for the New
York Evening Post. Also here is material from the two dictionaries
on which he served as botanical editor, and the series of articles he wrote
for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Included herein are the working
files, filled with clippings and notes which found their way into his various
texts and editions. Correspondence with publishers, including his financial
negotiations, is found with the work to which it is connected. Other correspondence
is found in Series 10: Correspondence. Contracts for his publications are
found in Series 7: Contracts. Taylor's unpublished work is found in Series
8: Unpublished Work. Taylor's lectures and notes are found in Series 9:
Lecture Notes and Lantern Slides. A scrapbook commemorating the publication
of the fourth edition, 1961, is found in Box 14. Also in Box 14 is a scrapbook
containing Taylor's research on nature publications as part of his consulting
editorship with G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Series 7 Contracts,
1 lin. in. Arranged alphabetically.
This series contains the contracts and transfers of rights linked to
many of Taylor's works.
Series 8 Unpublished
1 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically.
Taylor wrote some pieces on speculation on non-botanical subjects that
never found a publisher. Richardson's Juvenile Encyclopedia, for
which his work was solicited, was never issued. His essay on the "Bittersweet
Origin of Chocolate," while not published at the time, led to Flight
From Reality, where it appears as a chapter.
Series 9 Lecture Notes
and Lantern Slides, 1916-1962
2 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
Taylor's explorations in Brazil and the Caribbean provided material
for public lectures at The New York Botanical Garden and Brooklyn Botanical
Garden. His notes and lantern slides, many of which are from commercial
houses, are found here. Later, his renown as an expert on gardens brought
him many lucrative lecture engagements around the country. Correspondence
associated with these appearances is found in this series. Material related
to lectures and interviews he gave as a representative of the Cinchona
Products Institute are found in Series 2: Cinchona Products Institute.
Series 10 Social
1.33 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.
This series contains Taylor's correspondence outside his work with the
Cinchona Products Institute. Contained here are letters to and from his
publishers and associates. Taylor's memberships in the Century, Cosmos,
and Explorer's Clubs are thoroughly documented as are his socio/political
interests, especially his support of Victor Krevchenko, a dissident from
Soviet Russia. There is no personal correspondence in this series and,
save snapshots taken by the Taylors on their travels, there is no personal
biographical material in the collection.
Series 11 Studies,
3 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.
Taylor was educated under the tutelage of The New York Botanical Garden's
Nathaniel Lord Britton and G. V. Nash. This series contains his early notebooks
and studies on taxonomic classification and his collection of G. V. Nash
reprints. His studies on Cohune Palm Oil and Tung Oil are commercial in
nature. Other early studies are found in Series 3: Flora of Long Island.
Series 12 Expeditions
and Travel, 1904-1967
1.75 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically.
This series contains journals, notes, photographs, correspondence, and
memorabilia dating from Taylor's first expeditions accompanying Nathaniel
Lord Britton and G.V. Nash and his search for Chicle in Brazil through
the extended European and world tours undertaken by Taylor and his wife
in the 1960s. Material from the Brazilian expedition is also found in Series
9: Lecture Notes and Lantern Slides. A scrapbook of the Taylors' 1961 European
tour and oversized material from this trip is found in Box 30.
Series 13 Awards,
2 fldrs., 2 medals. Arranged chronologically.
This series contains correspondence, publicity, citations, and the physical
awards bestowed on Norman Taylor. In 1936 he was given the Gold Medal from
the Massachusetts Horticultural Society for the Garden Dictionary.
The New York Botanical Garden gave him its Distinguished Service Award
in 1961 and the American Horticultural Society gave him its Liberty Hyde
Bailey Medal for lifetime achievement in 1963. Material concerning his
honorary Ph.D. from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland is found
in Series 14: Personal Files.
Series 14 Personal
2.5 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
This series contains material related to Taylor's professional career
and personal life, including his bibliographies and curricula vitae. Other
materials in this series include files related to Elmwood, his home on
Maryland's eastern shore, personal letters to editors, materials related
to his club memberships, and his personal lists of movies, concerts, and
operas he witnessed. A scrapbook of biographical data is found in Box 30.
The card catalog for his personal library, donated to the Garden, and also
in this series, is found in Boxes 36 and 37. Box 38 holds the metal containers
in which his card catalog was originally filed.
Series 15 Negatives,
3 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
This series contains negatives separated from preceding series. Negatives
are identified identically to the series and folders from which they were
separated. Negatives from snapshots of the Taylors' tours predominate.
The New York Botanical Garden
CFN Numbers 43-45, 50, 53, 68, 158, 183
New York Academy of Medicine
In 1963, Norman Taylor donated his collection of medical information
on malaria to the New York Academy of Medicine.
Processed December 1999 by Laura Zelasnic under a grant
from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) PA-23141-98 and a
grant from the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation.
For more information and a complete description contact:
Susan Fraser, NYBG
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
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