The New York Botanical GardenThe LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden houses a treasury of published and archival documents that trace the development of botany and horticulture from the twelfth century to the present day. The collections reflect the evolution of plant study from its origins in ancient medicine and agriculture to the most modern advances in plant molecular biology. The Mertz Library holds an excellent representation of the important pioneering botanical and horticultural works published in Europe and America over the past 500 years. In addition to scientific studies, a large collection of books, journals, and ephemera such as nursery catalogs, represents the history of popular gardening, garden design, and the nursery trade. PLANTS AND GARDENS PORTRAYED
From this wealth of materials, the exhibition Plants and Gardens Portrayed focuses on three areas of special strength in the collection of rare and illustrated books: the emergence of the study of plants from early medicine; international plant exploration and the introduction of new species; and the evolution of garden design. The rarely seen images exhibited here demonstrate the development of published illustration to communicate knowledge about plants and gardens.
The oldest work in the collection is a twelfth-century manuscript of the Circa instans, one of the earliest surviving copies of a treatise originating at Europe’s first medical school at Salerno in Italy. From the time of Aristotle’s student Theophrastus (ca. 371-ca. 287 B.C.E.) until the late fifteenth century, written information was transmitted through laboriously copied manuscripts such as this one, with amendments, errors, and annotations.
With the advent of the printing press, movable type, and increased paper supply in the mid-fifteenth century, early herbals could be exactly reproduced in many copies and widely distributed. The first plant books brought to print the great classical authorities, such as Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides, and translated old lists of plant names and properties, primarily for pharmaceutical purposes. Other early printed works, such as Konrad von Megenberg’s Puch der Natur and the Ortus sanitatis contained much unsubstantiated information, and their crude illustrations were copies of copies, often bearing little resemblance to the plants they were supposed to represent.
Increased access to information brought about by the printing revolution exposed inconsistencies in nomenclature and usages of plants, as well as the inaccuracies of derivative texts, and facilitated the sharing of new knowledge. It profoundly stimulated a critical re-examination of ancient theories and practices. For the first time it could be properly understood that flora varied from one region to another. A more systematic methodology began to develop in all of the natural sciences, characterized by the collection and preservation of specimens; and by careful direct observation, measurement, and the recording and publication of data. As the modern science of botany began to take shape, organized botanical gardens and herbaria were established, and more sophisticated methods of classifying plants evolved with standardized nomenclature and clear descriptions.
Increasingly detailed and accurate illustrations were an essential part of the movement toward scientific botany. With the publication of Otto Brunfels’s Herbarium vivae eicones in the 1530s, printed illustrations were based for the first time upon direct examination of living plants by the artist. Hans Weiditz drew the images for the woodcuts, depicting each specific plant as he observed it, complete with its underground structures and damages leaves. In 1562, a new Czech edition of Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s Commentaries on Dioscorides entitled Herbarz: Ginak Bylinar introduced large-scale woodcuts by Giorgio Liberale allowing far more portrayal of botanical detail than had the smaller figures of earlier editions.
By the sixteenth century, the introduction of new plants by local botanists, travelers, and international explorers began to accelerate. Leonhart Fuchs’s illustrated herbal De historia stirpium contains descriptions and naturalistic illustrations of more than 500 plants, of which approximately 100 were described or illustrated for the first time. Fuchs paid unique homage to his artists by publishing their names and portraits, acknowledging the centrality of their contribution to his work.
With improvements in travel and navigation, scientific expeditions were undertaken with increasing frequency, of ever-longer duration, to more and more remote areas. The pursuit of new geographical information expanded to include significant plant collection, and findings were often published in multi-volume works. Sir Hans Sloane’s late seventeenth-century expedition to the West Indies, for example, delivered to England no fewer than 800 new species of plants, many of them described and illustrated in his Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica. A century later, the geographer Alexander von Humboldt and botanist Aimé Bonpland traveled for five years from Venezuela to Peru to Mexico. Upon their return they published the first detailed and magnificently illustrated account of the natural history of South and Central America in a monumental 34-volume series, of which the first 14 volumes were devoted to botany.
To a great extent, such exploration was motivated by the search for plants of potential economic value. When the French government commissioned André and François André Michaux to inventory the trees of eastern North America, for example, the resulting Histoire des arbres forestiers de l’Amérique septentrionale summarized their possible commercial and artistic uses. But this was also a work of French prestige, and the beauty of the illustrations by Pierre Joseph Redouté and others belies its practical purpose.
In addition to books of medical, agricultural, and economic importance, botanical works of a purely descriptive nature began to appear at the end of the sixteenth century. The first of these were florilegia. The Prince-Bishop of Eichstätt initiated the most extravagant of all flower books, the Hortus Eystettensis, portraying more than 800 flowers growing in his extensive gardens. Sixteen years in preparation, this project was finally brought to completion after the death of the prince by the apothecary Basilius Besler in Nuremberg in 1613.
Some of the most splendid eighteenth-century descriptive works were based primarily on illustrations by virtuoso botanical artists, with minimal text. The Nuremberg physician and botanist Christoph Jacob Trew discovered Georg Dionysius Ehret, a young gardener turned artist, and sponsored his travels to many of the great botanical collections of Europe, where he learned from leading botanists how best to paint rare plants. Trew published hand-colored engravings of Ehret’s portraits in Plantae selectae, a diverse collection of botanical novelties, making him one of the most highly regarded botanical illustrators of the era. In France, the Empress Joséphine Bonaparte invited Pierre Joseph Redouté to paint the flowers in her garden at Malmaison. Over many years there he provided beautiful watercolors for several botanical works, including Les liliacées, in eight large folio volumes, with stipple engravings of all the plants thought at that time to be related to lilies.
Interest in lavish studies of specific species flourished throughout the nineteenth century. In his Historia naturalis palmarum, published in 3 volumes over the course of 30 years, Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius described and illustrated all known genera of the palm family with more than 240 chromolithographs, including views of habitats and botanical dissections. Alexander Postels’s Illustrationes algarum in itinere circa orbem jussu Imperatoriis Nicolai I. . . described species of seaweed found in the northern Pacific Ocean, illustrated by impressive monochromatic lithographs. Edward Ravenscroft produced The Pinetum Britannicum, a massive three-volume work describing all of the coniferous trees hardy in Great Britain, again with landscape views of their native habitats. The great Amazonian water-lily Victoria regia merited four dedicated monographs. Walter Hood Fitch employed the new technique of chromolithography to create the great English series portraying this enormous flower in 1861. Three years later, John Fisk Allen published a similar series by William Sharp depicting one of the first Victoria lilies to bloom in America. Fitch was also the lithographer of The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya by Joseph Dalton Hooker, plant explorer and later Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
A continuing fascination with new printing techniques characterizes several interesting botanical publications of the nineteenth century, as represented perhaps most strikingly by Alois Auer’s development of nature printing in Vienna in the early 1850s. The New York Botanical Garden possesses two pristine exemplars of Auer’s original prints, created by pressing plants and other natural specimens directly into soft lead plates.
In parallel with the evolution of botanical illustration, printmakers learned to present alluring images of gardens. After a first century of schematic designs, a more pictorial style of perspective view produced an escalating number of garden prints beginning in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Traveling designers, such as Hans Vredeman de Vries and Josef Furttenbach were able to broadcast the styles they discovered in Italy for imitation and adaptation in northern Europe.
Gardens increasingly became arenas for sovereign rivalry and even the subject of propagandistic prints. Iconographic programs advertised the virtue of the resident prince through fountains, frescoes, and architectural structures, extending even to the symbolism of specific plants. For example, the dedication to the pope’s nephew of Giovanni Battista Falda’s Li giardini di Roma explicitly identified orange trees as "symbols of the Heroic Virtue of Your Excellency." Such meanings were transmitted again and again through garden views and horticultural literature.
In reaction against the authoritarian designs of royal gardens epitomized by Versailles, a new appreciation of unfettered nature developed in the eighteenth century. The English landscape garden integrated agricultural production and country views into the aesthetics of naturalistic park design. Humphry Repton published the most important books about this movement, based on hundreds of manuscript "Red Books" that he wrote and drew as project proposals. A mania for picturesque nature transformed landscape design and even inspired caricatures, such as Dr. Syntax by the printmaker Thomas Rowlandson. Ultimately, Repton objected to "the new slovenly doctrine of what has been called ‘picturesqueness’," as in his manuscrip Red Book for Whitton.
At a turning point in the history of publishing, the Scottish writer John Claudius Loudon invented the garden magazine in 1826. This new kind of publication provided the latest information about garden plants and horticulture, while promoting causes such as public parks and the morality of window gardening. It also provided the editor with a platform for absolute pronouncements on taste for the burgeoning middle classes commuting on the new railroads to their garden "villas" in the new suburbs. Similar journals quickly sprang up in Europe and America, and popular illustrated gardening books also proliferated, many of them generated by the major magazine editors.
With the prosperity that followed the Civil War, large numbers of Americans turned to ornamental garden-making as a healthy combination of piety, industry, civic improvement, amenity, and culture. Many American garden publications imitated European models, gradually adapting their horticultural instructions to a North American climate and their design mandates to a more egalitarian society as the nineteenth century progressed. Jacob Weidenmann’s Beautifying Country Homes, the first American garden book to be illustrated with color plates, closely followed the style of Austrian designer Rudolf Siebeck in presenting garden plans for affluent owners of a few acres in Hartford, Newport, and New York.
With the advent of mass printing, the great botanical and garden design publications were imitated by a multitude of smaller scale books and journals illustrated by inexpensive media, such as wood engraving, succeeded by photomechanical processes in the late nineteenth century. The ideal of plant portraits "at once artistical and botanical, in the highest degree" (in the words of John Claudius Loudon) survives, however, in the work of recent artists, including Margaret Ursula Mee; and in the active teaching and collecting of botanical drawing at The New York Botanical Garden.
Elizabeth S. Eustis John F. Reed David L. Andrews
The oldest surviving texts about plants in the Western world date back to the time of Theophrastus (ca. 371-ca. 287 B.C.E.), student and heir of Aristotle. From this period of empirical observation and recording of plant descriptions, written information was transmitted over many centuries through laboriously copied manuscripts, with numerous amendments and generations of error. As the quality of such copies declined, Aristotle’s emphasis on direct observation was lost in the reverence for his tradition.
After publishing became a practical venture around the mid-fifteenth century, descriptive texts about medicinally important plants, known as "herbals," could at last be exactly reproduced in large quantities. The first printed plant books provided little more than lists of plant names and their healing properties, copied for the most part from older manuscripts, with stylized illustrations of little value for identification and much unsubstantiated information.
By the mid-sixteenth century, however, new knowledge and more sophisticated plant portraits began to appear in print based upon increasingly systematic study of the natural world and the discovery of new plants. Henceforth, newly scientific approaches to botany, medicine, and horticulture prevailed in an ever-increasing stream of publications.
Manuscript ink on vellum
School of Salerno, Italy
Circa instans is the first-known modern document to establish standards for plant names and include a list of "simples," or primary ingredients from which compound medicines could be formulated. Originating at the School of Salerno, Italy, Europe’s leading medical center in the early Middle Ages, it has been attributed to the teaching physician Matthaeus Platearius.
"C. Plinii secundi naturalis historiae liber secundus . . "
Illuminated text page
from Gaius Pliny the Elder (23-79 C.E.)
Venice: R. de Novimagio, 1483
The Emperor Vespasian’s assistant Pliny the Elder wrote the oldest extant encyclopedia, a natural history in 37 books of which 16 discuss botany, agriculture, and horticulture. The text is based on his survey of 2,000 earlier volumes, supplemented by a lifetime of personal observation. It is the principal document of Roman knowledge about plants.
from Pedianos Dioscorides (ca. 40-ca. 90 C.E.)
[De materia medica]
Venice: A. and A. Soceri, 1518
As a Greek physician traveling with the military forces of the Roman emperor Nero, Dioscorides studied the characteristics of many plants and minerals, their distribution, and medicinal properties. His work De materia medica, written about 77 C.E. and published in this edition by the famous Aldine Press, describes more than 500 plants. It remained the primary source of plant names, terminology, and pharmacology well into the sixteenth century.
from Konrad von Megenberg (1309-1374)
He nach volget das Puch der Natur . . .
Augsburg: H. Bamler, 1475
The scholar and cleric Konrad von Megenberg compiled his encyclopedic Book of Nature in the fourteenth century from a number of earlier authorities. The fifth chapter discusses plants – 89 species arranged in no particular order. The woodcuts are the first printed depictions of plants presented for botanical rather than decorative purposes.
"Arbor vel lignum vite paradisi"
from Ortus sanitatis de herbis et planti de animalibus...
[Strassburg: J. Pruss, 1497]
The text for this encyclopedic Garden of Health was reprinted from a 1491 compilation of contemporary medical knowledge and natural history by Jacob Meydenbach. It contains 802 chapters on plants, animals, and minerals, including descriptions and illustrations of legendary species, such as the "Tree of Paradise."
from Otto Brunfels (ca. 1488-1534)
Herbarium vivae eicones ad naturae imitationem
Strassburg: J. Schott, 1530-1532
A new age of botanical illustration began with the publication of Otto Brunfels’s Portraits of Living Plants, which was profusely illustrated by the first realistic botanical woodcuts. The artist Hans Weiditz, a pupil of Dürer, drew from actual plants with all of their flaws and oversaw the accuracy of the figures, such as that of the white waterlily (Nymphaea alba).
from Otto Brunfels (ca. 1488-1534)
Contrafayt Kreüterbüch . . .
Strassburg: J. Schott, 1532
The superior botanical figures by Hans Weiditz appeared in edition after edition of Brunfels’s work – although the derivative text was relatively unimportant. This example was skillfully hand-colored, greatly enhancing the beauty and usefulness of the figure for identification purposes.
"Turcicum frumentum – Türckisch Korn"
from Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566)
De historia stirpium . . .
Basel: Isingrin Press, 1542
In his treatise On the History of Plants, the medical botanist Leonhart Fuchs carefully supervised the creation of accurate and artistic woodcuts focusing on the botanical features that characterize species. The text, largely drawn from Dioscorides, also introduced numerous new plants, many of which Fuchs had personally collected.
"Turcicum frumentum – Türckisch Korn"
from Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566)
De historia stirpium . . .
Basel: Isingrin Press, 1542
The large figures in this work were idealized for general identification and drawn in outline with minimal shading as an aid to coloration. The first printed illustration of Zea mays (Indian corn), a New World native that Fuchs thought to have come from Turkey, appears in this book.
"Of cucumbers and suche"
Anonymous copy after Albrecht Meyer
from William Turner (1510/1515-1568)
A New Herball, Wherein are Conteyned the Names of Herbes . . . with the Properties, Degrees and Naturall Places of the Same . . .
Part 1, [London]: S. Mierdman, 1551
Part 2, Cologne: A. Birckman, 1562
William Turner wrote the first original work of scientific botany in the English language, recording 238 plants indigenous to the British Isles. Jailed and exiled for his non-conformist religious views, he traveled extensively in Europe, studying with botanists and earning his medical degree in Italy before becoming Dean of Wells Cathedral. He wrote his herbal in English instead of Latin to aid herb gatherers and apothecaries, with figures copied from Fuchs’s herbal.
Giorgio Liberale and Wolfgang Meyerpeck
from Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1501-1577)
Herbarz: Ginak Bylinar . . .
Prague: G. Melantrich, 1562
Pietro Andrea Mattioli, physician to the Emperor Maximilian II and botanist, first published his Commentaries on Dioscorides in 1544 as an aid to the doctors and apothecaries who still depended upon this authoritative classical text. The Prague edition of 1562 presented a new set of enlarged and skillfully executed woodcut illustrations, essential to medical practitioners. The Mertz Library possesses the original woodblock used to make this print of Eruca sativa, the "salad rocket."
[Herbs in the practice of medicine]
from Adam Lonicer (1528-1586)
Kreuterbuch. Künstliche Conterfeytunge der Bäume, Stauden, Hecken, Kräuter, Getreyde, Gewürtze . . .
Frankfurt: C. Egenolph, 1577
The anonymous illustrator of Lonicer’s Herbal copied a scene depicting the role of plants in medicine from Eucharius Rösslin’s herbal, which Lonicer revised as his text. A group of physicians can be seen consulting before a physic garden about to be harvested. To the right, an apothecary and his assistant prepare and distill pharmaceutical plants, while in the background a doctor administers an herbal prepartion to his patient.
Global exploration expanded with the invention of each important navigational instrument, from the magnetic compass in the thirteenth century to the sextant and marine chronometer in the eighteenth century. In addition to the search for trade routes and economic advances, expeditions were motivated by scientific and even religious curiosity about the world. Medicinal, economic, and horticultural interests stimulated massive collection and description of the flora discovered in previously inaccessible lands.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, naturalists such as Alexander Postels and Hugh Algernon Weddell often accompanied government-sponsored scientific expeditions. Joseph Banks returned to England in 1771 from Captain Cook’s Tahitian voyage, and transformed the King’s garden at Kew into the hub of an international network of botanical gardens. Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius accompanied a Hapsburg princess on the voyage to her wedding in Brazil and returned to the King of Bavaria three years later with 6,500 specimens from the Amazon.
Scientific explorers such as Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin placed great emphasis on careful observation and the accurate recording of data, which in turn led to the formulation of fundamental new theories about the natural world. After observing zonal variations of vegetation during his ascent of Mount Chimborazo, Humboldt correlated them to zonal variations by latitude. In conceiving the idea that physical conditions determine plant distribution, he shifted the foundation of plant study to relate botany to the geographical environment.
"A New Map of the Island of Jamaica"
"A New Chart of the Western Ocean"
"A New Chart of the Caribee Islands"
from Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753)
A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica, with the Natural History of the Herbs and Trees, Four-footed Beasts, Fishes . . .
London: printed by B. M. for the author, 1707-1725
In 1687, the young Hans Sloane became physician to the newly appointed governor of Jamaica, Christopher Monck. During his two years of residence on this little-known island, Sloane made observations and collections of the flora and fauna, chronicled the geography and meteorology, studied the inhabitants and their diseases, and searched for new drugs. In 1689, he returned to England with extensive natural history collections, including no fewer than 800 species of plants.
"Carte des Etats du Centre, de l’ouest et du Sud des Etats-Unis"
From François André Michaux (1770-1855)
Voyage à l’ouest des Monts Alléghanys, dans les etats de l’Ohio, du Kentucky et du Tennessée
Paris: Crapelet printer for Levrault, Schoell, 1804
In 1802, François André Michaux traveled from Philadelphia through sparsely settled areas of the Allegheny and Cumberland Mountains to Pittsburgh, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee before returning east to Charleston, South Carolina. He was continuing the work of his father, André Michaux, collecting seeds of trees and other plants for introduction into the impoverished forests of France.
Pierre Joseph Redouté
a) "White Oak"
b) "Red Oak"
c) "Black Oak"
Stipple engravings à la poupée
from François André Michaux (1770-1855)
The North American Sylva, or a Description of the Forest Trees of the United States, Canada and Nova Scotia Considered Particularly with Respect to Their Use in the Arts and Their Introduction into Commerce
Philaadelphia: T. Dobson and S. Conrad, 1817-1819
First issued as Histoire des arbres forestiers de l’Amérique septentionale from 1810 to 1813 with 140 illustrations by the Redouté school, Michaux’s sylva was translated by Augustus Hillhouse to address the growing English and American markets for North American trees. It remained the standard work on the subject until the end of the century.
Michaux observed the use of these three oaks for the construction of log cabins and boats during his travels through the eastern United States in 1802.
"Le Chimborazo vu depuis le Plateau de Tapia"
M. Thibaut after F. W. H. A. von Humboldt
Hand-colored stipple engraving
from F. W. H. Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859)
Vues des Cordillères, et monumens des peuples indigènes de l’Amérique
Paris: F. Schoell, 1810
Alexander von Humboldt and botanist Aimé Bonpland set out in 1799 on a five-year expedition through Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador, with journeys to Cuba and Mexico. During their ascent of the extinct volcano Mount Chimborazo, Humboldt developed his theory of zonal vegetation. This plate from the 34-volume record of their exploration depicts plant collecting at the foot of that snow-clad and glaciated Andean peak.
Eduard Friedrich Pöppig
Chromolithograph with hand-coloring
from Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794-1868)
Historia naturalis palmarum
Leipzig: T. O. Weigel, [1824-1850]
The author of over 150 botanical titles, including the great flora of Brazil, Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius also wrote the still-definitive three-volume treatise on the palm family, one of the first plant monographs. He developed his life-long fascination with palms during an expedition through Brazil from 1817 to 1820, and he worked nearly 30 years to prepare this grand summation, including palms found only as fossils.
"Vallée de San Juan del Oro"
from Hugh Algernon Weddell (1819-1877)
Histoire Naturelle des quinquinas, ou monograph du genre Cinchona . . .
Paris: V. Masson, 1849
Hugh Algernon Weddell traveled extensively in Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru between 1845 and 1848 as a botanist on a French government-sponsored expedition. He was given a special mission to study the diversity and distribution of the genus Cinchona, source of the anti-malarial drug quinine. Returning to Paris, he determined much of the natural range of Cinchona from his own observations combined with herbarium specimens and the written records of earlier explorers.
From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, royal patrons such as the Empress Joséphine Bonaparte commissioned some of the most outstanding publications of botanical description and iconography. Teams of botanists and artists were employed to work together on vast projects over many years: Redouté, for example, was assisted by 18 engravers over fourteen years to produce his great work on lilies, with text by 3 leading Parisian botanists. Such productions became emblems of national artistic and scientific prestige, and were carried on with pride even as governments became more democratic.
The pictorial requirements of botanical illustration changed as methods and systems of plant classification evolved. At first, texts with simple woodcuts were often arranged according to medicinal use or flowering season. Later, the fine lines of engraving and etching made it possible to record more botanical detail. This became essential as Linnaeus developed a "sexual system" of classification that depended on analyzing the anatomical structure of flowers and seeds. As "natural systems" of plant classification evolved, requiring increasing anatomical and morphological detail such as leaf structure, texture of bark, and color, artists adapted their priorities and adopted new printing techniques to accommodate such features. Nineteenth-century printing technologies increased the availability of illustrations and strove for an ever-greater range of accuracy, including color. The ultimate in authenticity was attempted in a process called "nature printing," which molded templates from the plants themselves.
"Corona imperialis polyanthos"
from Basilius Besler (1561-1629)
Hortus Eystettensis. . .ad vivum repraesentatio
3rd ed., [Eichstätt: J. G. Sthenander], 1713
At the turn of the seventeenth century, the Prince-Bishop of Eichstätt, Johann Conrad von Gemmingen, created a great garden of rarities at his castle in the region of Nuremberg. He also commissioned hundreds of flower paintings made on site and from specimens sent to artists’ studios. The apothecary Basilius Besler assisted in the development of the garden and organized the printing of the largest book of plant portraits ever published. This Fritillaria imperialis is among the first examples of botanical engraving on copper plates.
"Cereus gracilis scandens . . ."
Georg Dionysius Ehret
from Christoph Jacob Trew (1695-1769) and Benedict Christian Vogel (1745-1825)
Plantae selectae . . .
Augsburg: J. J. Haid, 1750-1773
Georg Dionysius Ehret stands with Redouté as one of the most famous of all botanical artists. His patron Christoph Jacob Trew, Dean of the Nuremberg medical school, commissioned him to paint rare flowers growing principally at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London. These were engraved by the publisher Johan Jacob Haid for inclusion in Trew’s Selected Plants. The cactus now reclassified as Selenicereus grandiflorus is commonly known as night-blooming cereus.
Stipple engraving à la poupée
from Pierre Joseph Redouté (1759-1840)
Paris: for the author, 1802-1816
The Empress Joséphine Bonaparte commissioned this famous eight-volume work of monocotyledons (primarily lilies and iris) growing in her gardens and glasshouses at Malmaison. Pierre Joseph Redouté, the leading French botanical artist, painted the studies for its 486 plates, which were engraved over 14 years by 18 printmakers under his direction. The South African native now called Brunsvigia josephinae reached Holland in 1789 and first bloomed at Malmaison in 1805.
"Laminaria bongardiana palmata"
from Alexander Philipov Postels (1801-1871) and Franz Josef Ruprecht (1814-1870)
Illustrationes algarum in itinere circa orbem jussu Imperatoriis Nicolai I . . .
St. Petersburg: E. Pranz, 1840
In 1826, the Russian ship Seniavin set out on a three-year circumnavigation of the globe by order of Czar Nicolas I. The expedition returned with nearly 4,000 natural history speciments, the largest exploratory collection of the era. Alexander Postels, the naturalist and artist to the expedition, drew 104 species of marine algae found in the northern Pacific for this rare lithograph series.
Sarah Anne Drake
from John Lindley (1799-1865)
Sertum orchidaceum: A Wreath of the Most Beautiful Orchidaceous Flowers
London: J. Ridgeway, 1837-1841
John Lindley, a leading British botanist and horticulturist, had a life-long interest in orchids. During the orchidomania of about 1830 to 1850, he developed a simple system for classifying the orchids of the world. This beautiful work was published in 10 issues for about 100 wealthy subscribers; it was so often split up for framing that few intact copies survive.
Walter Hood Fitch after Joseph Dalton Hooker
from Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911)
The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya . . .
London: Reeve, 1849-
Joseph Dalton Hooker, son of the first director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, explored the flora of India and Nepal from 1849 to 1851. In Sikkim, at a temperate altitude over 9,000 feet, he discovered 24 species of rhododendron in a single day, more than doubling the known species during his expedition and revolutionizing European gardening. Kew’s botanical artist Walter Hood Fitch prepared the lithographs from field sketches by Hooker.
"Victoria regia – Opening Flower"
Walter Hood Fitch
from Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865)
Victoria regia; or Illustrations of the Royal Water-lily . . .
London: Reeve and Benham, 1851
The gigantic water lily from South America, now Victoria amazonica, was discovered in 1801 and named in honor of Queen Victoria in 1838. It first germinated in England in 1849 at the Royal Gardens, Kew. The first European flowering occurred at Chatsworth, where Joseph Paxton had constructed a greenhouse especially to house it.
Kew artist Walter Hood Fitch published more than 10,000 botanical drawings in his lifetime, of which this is one of the most spectacular examples.
from John Fisk Allen (1807-1876)
Victoria regia; or the Great Water Lily of America. . .
Boston: for the author by Dutton and Wentworth, 1854
The first North American flowering of the "Giant Amazonian Waterlily" occurred from Kew-donated seeds in 1851 in Philadelphia. Soon listings of horticultural exhibitions regularly mentioned displays of Victoria amazonica in bloom. William Sharp, the leading chromolithographer in America, printed six large portraits of a flower blooming in Salem, Massachusetts.
"Blätter des Mann=Waldfarn"
from Alois Auer (active 1840s-1850s)
Pflanzen Blumen und Blätter
Vienna: Imperial Printing Office, 1853
Alois Auer invented techniques of "nature printing" at the Imperial Printing Office of Austria, exactly reproducing the patterns of natural objects by impressing original specimens into soft lead plates or casting them in a light gum. Proclaiming that "future. . .deisgners will become superfluous," he "produced ecstasy" in manufacturers and naturalists and predicted "a new era in the publication of. . .artistical-scientific objects." He foresaw an end to "troublesome. . .[and] expensive herbaries" in what he regarded as the most important advance in printing since Gutenberg’s invention of movable type.
"Clusia grandiflora Proc: Sitio de Roberto Burle Marx/Est. do Rio, Set: 1961/Origin:
Margaret Ursula Mee (1909-1988)
Pencil and gouache on paper
Margaret Ursula Mee, an Englishwoman trained at the Camberwell School of Art, moved to Brazil in 1952. There she became an advocate for the protection of the rain forests, using her artistic skills to communicate the beauty and diversity of the flora of the Amazon Basin. When asked shortly before her death which was her favorite plant to paint, she replied, "Clusia." This painting of her beloved Clusia, made on the property of landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, was acquired by Dr. Bassett Maguire, the Garden’s Senior Scientist, and was given to the Library by his widow, Celia Maguire.
From the primitive selection process to modern hybridization, humans have assisted and controlled the genetic variability and evolution of edible plants. By the second millennium B.C.E., Chinese horticulturists had discovered grafting, a technique transmitted to the Greeks and Romans. Pliny the Elder recorded 23 varieties of cultivated apples. On the other side of the globe, Amerindians developed the tall sweet vegetable familiar to Americans as corn (Zea mays) from a tiny plant over thousands of years.
In the mid-seventeenth century, a burgeoning number of varieties of fruit in European gardens reach print, beginning with splendidly illustrated volumes on citrus trees. The next two hundred years were the golden age of illustrated books describing fruit. More unusual were illustrated volumes of vegetables, notably represented in this exhibition by Matthieu Bonafous’s monograph on American corn.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the English pomologist Thomas Andrew Knight and his daughter Frances began experimenting with the cross-breeding of selected fruit trees. As president of London’s Horticultural Society, he publicized the special vigor of hybridized varieties. Both Knight and the young assistant secretary of the Society, John Lindley, published descriptions of recommended cultivars, finely illustrated with hand-colored plates, which "alone are capable of pointing out those slight discriminations of character, which often distinguish one variety of fruit from another.
"The Beurré Diel Pear"
Augusta Innes Withers
from John Lindley (1799-1865)
The Pomological Magazine, vol. I (1828)
Early in his career John Lindley described more than 150 fruits best suited for cultivation in Great Britain in a series of issues with plates by Augusta Innes Withers, flower and fruit painter to Queen Augusta. Lindley soon became the first professor of botany at University College, London, and secretary of the Horticultural Society. He wrote the first book explaining physiological principles in horticulture, and in 1838 prepared the report leading to the establishment of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
Nikolaus Friedrich Eisenberger
from Elizabeth Blackwell (d. 1758)
Herbarium Blackwellianum . . ., vol. IV
Nuremberg: Christian de Launoy, 1757-1773
In the 1730s, Elizabeth Blackwell drew, engraved, and colored A Curious Herbal from plants in the Chelsea Physic Garden to raise money to free her husband from debtor’s prison. Issuing one part every week for 125 weeks, she succeeded in releasing him, only to see him executed in a plot to alter the succession to the Swedish throne. For Christoph Jacob Trew’s rewritten Nuremberg edition of 1757-1773, Nikolaus Friedrich Eisenberger enlarged and added new botanical details to her designs.
"The Old Quining"
Walter Hooker after Elizabeth Matthews or Frances Knight
from Thomas Andrew Knight (1759-1838)
Pomona Herefordiensis. . .
London: The Agricultural Society of Herefordshire, 1811
The pomologist Thomas Andrew Knight, president of the Horticultural Society of London (1811-1838), first called attention to hybrid vigor in apples and pears. He sent many new varieties to America early in the nineteenth century, including the "Old Quining," a variety of cider apple. In his treatise on apple and pear cultivars, the plates were hand-colored.
b) "Le Mangothier"
c) "La Pomme d’Acajou"
from Etienne Denisse (active 1814-1845)
Flore d’Amérique dessinée d’après nature sur les lieux
Paris: Gihaut frères, [1843-1846]
Royal lithographer Etienne Denisse worked at the botanical garden of the natural history museum in Paris. Traveling to the West Indies as artist for a government-sponsored expedition, he sent back many plants and drawings, especially from Guadeloupe, eventually published in his Flore d’Amérique. His vivid plant portraits include an avocado (Persea americana); mango (Mangifera indica); and cashew (Anacardium occidentale), with its pendant nut at the bottom of the fruit.
from William Jowett Titford (1784-1823/7)
Sketches Towards a Hortus Botanicus Americanus
London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1811 
William Jowett Titford was a Jamaica-born, British-trained physician who traveled through the eastern United States to make drawings for his Sketches Towards a Hortus Botanicus Americanus. He studied with Dr. Hosack at Columbia and at the Elgin Botanic Garden in New York City while preparing his book, and returned to London to publish it. His frontispiece presents 49 tropical fruits, mostly of West Indian origin.
"Brassica capitata alba"
Hand-colored "mock mezzotint" engraving
from Johann Wilhelm Weinmann (1683-1741)
Duidelyke Vertoning . . . Taalryk Register der Plaat-ofte Figuur-Beschryvingen der Bloemdragende
Gewassen, vol. I
Amsterdam: Z. Romberg, 1736-1748
Johann Wilhelm Weinmann, a botanist and apothecary at Regensburg, Germany, hired the young artist Georg Dionysius Ehret for his fir major commission, a grand collection of more than 1,000 hand-colored plates in 8 folio volumes. After completing 500 paintings, Ehret abandoned his exploitative employer and moved to England. Bartholomäus Seuter painted many of the subsequent illustrations, including this cabbage printed in moss-colored ink with additional hand coloring. This Dutch edition reissued the original plates.
"Zea mais rubra – Maïs Rouge"
"Zea mais versicolor – Maïs Jaspé
"Epi à Grains de Diverses Variétés"
Stipple engraving à la poupée
from Matthieu Bonafous (1793-1852)
Histoire naturelle, agricole et economique du maïs
Paris: Madame Huzard; Turin: Bocca, 1836
Matthieu Bonafous’s monograph discusses the varieties, uses, culture, and economics of corn, an American plant that had become a major crop in many parts of the world. Zea mais rubra, or Indian corn, had been the subject of eighteenth-century experiments by Cotton Mather and James Logan, helping to prove that plants reproduce sexually, an early achievement of American science.
Throughout the eighteenth century, adventurous botanists sought new species of trees in the eastern North American forests. A primary focus of their botanizing was the economic potential of American trees. Most of the woodlands of Europe had been devastated, and new supplies of trees were essential to carpentry and to the construction of ships on which trade and military might largely depended. By an act of Parliament in 1711, Queen Anne took possession of all white pines over 24 inches in diameter in New England to make masts for the British navy. After the American Revolution, Louis XVI sent the French botanist André Michaux to bring back collections of "all the trees and forest plants which nature has given," work continued by François André Michaux.
United States government-sponsored explorations began in 1803 with the Lewis and Clark expedition. By mid-century, virtually all newly discovered American plant species were being relayed to the preeminent botanist Asa Gray for identification. Gray’s successor at Harvard, Charles Sprague Sargent, finally completed the task of describing the North American sylva at the end of the nineteenth century.
Early American settlers had been intent on clearing the wilderness, but in 1832 Daniel Jay Browne published the first American call for tree planting – directed especially at farmers. Within decades, Henry David Thoreau in the East and John Muir in the West initiated a wilderness preservation movement. Gifford Pinchot became the leading spokesman for the conservation of forests, beginning a movement that continues to this day.
"Sequoia Wellingtonia – The Two Guardsmen"
Chromolithograph after a photograph
from Edward James Ravenscroft (1816-1890)
The Pinetum Britannicum
Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, -1884
The printer and publisher Edward Ravenscroft brought to completion Charles Lawson’s monograph describing the range of conifers growing in Great Britain, illustrated by a remarkable assortment of engravings, woodcuts, chromolithographs, and photographs. The "Wellingtonia" – of "Washingtonia," as Americans proposed to call it – now Sequoiadendron giganteum, was a recent arrival in Britain, having been discovered in California about 1850. Bark and cross sections with a diameter of 96 feet were displayed in New York and at the Crystal Palace in London.
from Mark Catesby (1683-1749)
Hortus Europae Americanus
London: J. Millan, 1767
Mark Catesby first arrived in America in 1712, studying flora of the region around Williamsburg and distributing seeds back to England. Based in Charleston from 1722, he botanized from North Carolina to Florida, drawing plant specimens "while fresh and just gathered" for his Natural History of the Carolinas, Florida and Bahama Islands (1730-1747). The Hortus Europae Americanus, completed by Catesby shortly before his death, contains a portrait of the flower of the tree now knows as Magnolia grandiflora.
from William Paul Crillon Barton (1786-1856)
Vegetable Materia Medica of the United States
2nd ed., Philadelphia: Carey, 1825
William Paul Crillon Barton, newphew of Benjamin Smith Barton, one of the first scientific botanists in America, was a physician in Philadelphia and professor of botany at the University of Pennsylvania. The Vegetable Materia Medica (1817-1818), drawn and colored by Barton, described American indigenous plants, emphasizing their medicinal properties. The tulip tree was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson, who planted it at Monticello.
Hand-colored stipple engraving
from Aylmer Bourke Lambert (1761-1842)
A Description of the Genus Pinus
London: Weddell, 1832
The important botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer presented Pinus strobus(eastern white pine) with great attention to the details of needles, flower, and cones for a standard work on pines that was nearly 40 years in the making. British botanist Aylmer Bourke Lambert also published descriptions of many of the plants discovered by Lewis and Clark in his North American Flora of 1814.
from Asa Gray (1810-1888)
Plates Prepared between the Years 1849 and 1859 to Accompany a Report on the Forest Trees of
North America by Asa Gray
Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1891
Asa Gray, America’s most eminent botanist, and the Smithsonian Institution set out to prepare a definitive book on the sylva of North America, enlisting Isaac Sprague as artist and Joseph Prestele as lithographer. As United States government surveys of the West began, the overwhelming task of naming and classifying new western plants fell to Gray at Harvard, preventing the completion of this projected work. Four years after his death, the plates prepared for it were published without text by the Smithsonian Institution.
In the late sixteenth century, not long before the earliest flower books, garden views first came into print. Essential to this new kind of image was the development of perspective, demonstrated by the Flemish artist Hans Vredeman de Vries, among others. Portable printed designs and views made it easier for fashions of the stationary place to travel, and the influence of classical Italian gardens became widespread in Northern Europe.
During the eighteenth century, a new ideal of nature led to a profound shift away from integrating gardens with domestic architecture and toward integrating gardens with their surrounding landscape. The English landscape garden countered the French formal style, which was associated with absolute monarchy, leading ultimately to a taste for wild landscape considered "picturesque."
Humphry Repton declared a limit to the desirability of wilderness around the house and reintroduced graceful garden architecture with flowerbeds, trellises, and fountains. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, he authored the last generation of large hand-painted garden design folios.
By mid-century, cheap paper, mass printing, and common literacy converted to create a blooming popular press. At the same time, the first era of widespread consumerism fueled ongoing tension between ideals of picturesque naturalism and variety. Ordinary people had an unprecedented capacity to pack a maximum of objects and effects into a limited garden space. A new kind of popular hero emerged: the magazine "conductor" guiding his readers through the hazards of taste.
[View of an urban garden with horizon line]
from Hans Vredeman de Vries
Leiden: H. Hondius, 1604-1605
Near the end of his life, the Flemish architect, painter, and designer Hans Vredeman de Vries summarized his expertise in the "art of eyesight." His presentation of the technique of perspective appeared in more than 20 editions. Two plates demonstrate the projection of garden views in perspective on a flat surface.
[View of the private garden of Josef Furttenbach]
Matthaeus Remboldt after Jonas Arnold
from Josef Furttenbach the Elder (1591-1667)
Augsburg: J. Schultes, 1641
In his own garden, the architect and designer Josef Furttenbach grew more than 100 varieties of tulips around a little grotto pavilion housing a fountain. Influenced by the classical revival in Italy with its integration of house and garden design, he became the first German architect to publish garden designs as a central aspect of his work.
[Allegory of planting the Golden Apples in Rome]
Johann Friedrich Greuter after Guido Reni
from Giovanni Battista Ferrari (1583-1655)
Hesperides sive de malorum aureorum cultura et usu . . .
Rome: H. Scheus, 1646
In 1623, Giovanni Battista Ferrari became horticultural advisor to the family of Pope Urban VIII, at the Palazzo Barberini, soon famous for its rare plants, including orange trees. He later wrote the first book on citrus trees, equating them with the mythical Golden Apples of the Hesperides won by Hercules. Orange trees became an important element in baroque gardens symbolizing the rewards merited by the benevolent prince.
Frontispiece: [Planting the orange tree]
Frans Ertinger after Charles Emmanuel Biset
from Frans van Sterbeeck (1631-1693)
Antwerp: J. Jacops, 1682
Frans van Sterbeeck was, like Ferrari, a Jesuit professor and a highly accurate botanist. Following thirty years of experimentation, he wrote a treatise on growing citrus trees in northern climates, acknowledging his debt to Ferrari in the visual quotation of its frontispiece.
a) Frontispiece: "Gli Esperidi Romani"
Arnold van Westerhout after Giovanni Battista Manelli
b) "Prospettiva del Giardino Pontifico su’l Quirinale"
Giovanni Battista Falda
Engraving with etching
from Giovanni Battista Falda (1643-1678)
Li Giardini di Roma
Rome: G. G. de’ Rossi, [ca. 1683]
Giovanni Battista Falda specialized in architectural views after studying drawing with the three leading Roman architects (Bernini, Borromini, and Pietro da Cortona). Through the 1660s and 1670s, he completed nearly 300 prints of the fountains, palaces, and gardens of Rome, including the pope’s private villa on the Quirinal hill, now the presidential palace. Falda’s publisher commissioned a lavish new frontispiece for this posthumous publication of his garden plans and views, showing Hercules pointing out a new Garden of the Hesperides in Rome.
a) [Plan for a serpentine garden]
b) [Design for an arbor]
from Batty Langley (1696-1751)
Practical Geometry Applied to the Useful Arts of Building, Surveying, Gardening and
Mensuration . . .
London: W. and J. Innys et al., 1726
Practical Geometry introduced Batty Langley’s concept of "arti-natural" design, a noteworthy step toward the English landscape garden style. Unlike most early authors of garden design treatises, the freemason Langley was careful to address the practical needs of the craftsman "without the Fatigue of Arithmetical Computation."
"Profil de l’Edifice sur la Longueur"
from Charles François Ribart
Architecture Singulière. L’elephant triomphal. Grand kiosque a la gloire du roi
Paris: P. Patte, 1758
The engineer Charles François Ribart proposed a gigantic fountain in the shape of a triumphal elephant in honor of King Louis XV to be ereceted in a park on the Champs Elysées in Paris. Sectional views inside the elephant reveal a ballroom, bedrooms, and a dining room decorated as a forest.
"Lord Sidmouth’s in Richmond Park" Overlay down: BEFORE
Overlay lifted : AFTER
from Humphry Repton (1752-1818)
Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening
London: J. Taylor, 1816
The leading turn-of-the-century landscape gardener, Humphry Repton, designed new gardens for Lord Sidmouth’s White Lodge in Richmond Park, advocating "a decided artificial Character for the Garden; boldly reverting to the ancient formal style, which by some will be condemned as departing from the imitation of Nature. . .[but which is preferable to] the uncleanly, pathless grass of a forest, filled with troublesome animals of every kind, and some occasionally dangerous."
"View from the Saloon" Overlay down: BEFORE
"View from the Saloon" Overlay lifted: AFTER
Watercolor on paper
from Humphry Repton (1752-1818)
Whitton – Seat of Samuel Prime Esqr.
Manuscript Red Book, 1796
This unpublished original proposal for Whitton is one of Repton’s manuscript "Red Books," in which he proposed the designs for each of his projects. Here he writes, "The neatness of the grounds at Whitton must give pleasure to every admirer of modern gardening, who is not a convert to the new and slovenly doctrine of what has been called ‘picturesqueness’."
a) "Vues du Jardin Parcs ou Carrières"
b) "Jardin Parcs ou Carrières"
Charles Motte after Gabriel Thouin
from Gabriel Thouin (1747-1829)
Plans raisonnés de toutes les espèces de jardins
Paris: Lebéque, 1819-1820
The French landscape designer Gabriel Thouin attempted to define pure rules of garden design in his best-known work, Reasoned Plans of All Kinds of Gardens.
He proposed a vast expansion of the gardens at Versailles, converting the site to a sequence of "sylvan, pastoral, rustic, Chinese romantic, and French romantic" areas, with a Colossus of Rhodes in the rustic garden and an armaments factory hidden beneath a Temple of Peace in the French romantic garden.
"Dr. Syntax Tumbling into the Water"
Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827)
from [William Combe]
The Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque
London: R. Ackermann, 1812
The ludicrous Dr. Syntax was a popular creation of English caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson, lampooning the Reverend William Gilpin, tastemaker of the picturesque. Rowlandson may also have been laughing at himself: he had painted his way through picturesque Wales several years earlier.
"A Picturesque Dairy"
from John Buonarotti Papworth (1775-1847)
Hints on Ornamental Gardening
London: R. Ackermann, 1823
This design for a functional dairy, disguised as a ruin by the prominent architect John Buonarotti Papworth, reflects the lingering fashion for picturesque ruins.
a) "Dragon Fountain in the Gardens at Eaton Hall. The Seat of the Most Noble The Marquis of Westminster
b) "View from the Upper Terrace Walk, in the Gardens at Shrublands, the Seat of Sir W. F. F. Middleton Baronet"
from E. Adveno Brooke (active 1844-1864)
The Gardens of England
London: T. McLean, 
Sir Charles Barry at Shrubland Park, Suffolk, and William Nesbit at Eaton Hall, Cheshire, led the grand Italianate movement in mid-century Victorian garden architecture. Forty gardeners maintained the famous gardens at Shrublands, with a formally planted terrace extending almost a mile. In a striking series of views by the artist E. Adveno Brooke, the bright hues of chromolithography mirror a fascination with masses of color in the garden.
[The villa of Mrs. Lawrence at Drayton Green]
from John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843), editor
The Gardener’s Magazine
2nd series, vol. XIV, no. 4 (July 1838)
At a time of diverse fashions and a middle-class preoccupation with good taste, John Claudius Loudon, the leading popular writer on gardens, firmly categorized acceptable models for imitation. He commended the garden of Mrs. Lawrence as "the very first villa of its class in the neighborhood of London. . .remarkable for the very great variety it contains in a very limited space."
"A Country Residence at Newport R. I. Designed and Partly Executed by
Eugene A. Baumann"
from Jacob Weidenmann (1829-1893)
Beautifying Country Homes
New York: Orange Judd and Co., 1870
Jacob Weidenmann, a Swiss-born and Munich-trained landscape designer in Hartford, Connecticut, became a partner of Frederick Law Olmsted. He designed parks from Saratoga Springs to Chicago, as well as the campuses of Cornell University and Brooklyn College. Beautifying Country Homes contained the first color plates in an American garden book, strongly influenced by published Austrian designs. Weidenmann included one project by Eugene A. Baumann for the grounds around a Calvert Vaux house in Newport combining formal parterres with picturesque groves.
[Advertisement for garden gnomes]
From Karl Götze (active 1890s)
Album für Teppichgärtnerei und Gruppenbepflanzung
2nd ed., Erfurt: L. Möller, 
The popular press publisher Ludwig Möller also pandered to public consumerism in marketing garden ornaments. In a turn-of-the-century book of carpet bedding patterns, his most colorful plates were advertisements for garden gnomes.
Thank you for visiting the online exhibitions of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library. All images are the property of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden.