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Michigan State University

Vibrant Treasures: Botanical Illustrations from the 16th to 20th Centuries: Covers - Beauty inside and out

This guide provides more information about the plant-centric illustrations, herbals and books displayed in the exhibit in the MSU Libraries Murray and Hong Special Collections Reading Room, March-May, 2011.

Items on display

This collection of works show how the covers of many early works were just as beautiful or handsome as the illustrations they enclosed.

Wild flowers, with ninety-six plates, printed in colour. Anne Pratt, 1806-1893, indexes by the Rev. G. Egerton Warburton. 1893?.

Anne Pratt, a grocer's daughter from Kent was an English botanist. Aided by her elder sister, who collected plants for her, she formed an extensive herbarium and supplemented her collection by making sketches of the specimens thereby illustrating all of her own botanical books. In the spirit of the Victorian Naturalists, successfully merged the study of botany with romantic flower-lore. Wild Flowers was her first botanical work containing 192 chromolithographed plates in the two volume set. Perhaps her most popular, especially among children, Wild Flowers (2 vols. , 1852), was also issued in sheets for hanging up in schoolrooms.

Cassell's popular gardening. D.T. Fish. London: Cassell, 1884-1886.

This four volume set contains over one thousand illustrations detailing popular gardening techniques for the amature and professional gardener. The volumes contain the following topics: Vol. I contents include sections on Common Garden Flowers, Florists' Flowers, Garden Pots and Potting, Green-house Plants, Herbs and Small Salads, The Life-History of Plants, The Rose, The Vine & more. Vol II contents include The Decorative Use of Flowers, The Flower Garden, The Hardy Fruit Garden, Orchids, The Pine-apple and more. Vol III contents include Aquatic Plants, Bulbous Plants, Glass Structures and Appliances, Hot-House or Stove Plants, Propagation and more. Vol IV contents include Choice Hardy Border Plants, Climbing Plants, Conifers, The Fig Under Glass, Lycopodiums, Mosses, Selaginellas and more.

 Botanique: Organographie et taxonomie; histoire naturelle des familles végétales et des principales espèces, suivant la classification de M. Adrien de Jussieu. Emmanuel Le Maout, d. 1877. Paris: L. Curmer, 1852.

Emmanuel Le Maout wanted to write a book on botany that would be interesting and accessible for laymen. After an introduction to the main aspects of organography and taxonomy, he proceeds with a description of the main families of plants.  In addition to the beautiful cover, it contains 23 decorative hand-colored plates, each showing four species, twenty sepia plates and many wood-engravings in the text.

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. To which is added a description of the most useful of the European forest trees. Illustrated by 156 colored engravings. François André Michaux and Thomas Nuttall. Philadelphia, D. Rice & A. N. Hart, 1859.

 First published in 1810 and translated into English in 1817, Michaux's Sylva was the result of ten years of research in North America. The 156 hand-colored plates were drawn by the Redouté brothers, Pierre Joseph and Henri Joseph, and Pancrace Bessa, and upon its publication the work was recognized as an authority in the discipline. The continuation of the Sylva was executed by Thomas Nuttall, an experienced American botanist and ornithologist whose Manual of the Ornithology of the United States and of Canada (1832) rivaled Audubon and Wilson in terms of strictly scientific contributions. Of the two works united, it is no exaggeration to remark that it is the most complete work of its kind, and is a production of unrivalled beauty, giving descriptions and illustrations of all the forest trees of North America, from the arctic limits of arborescent vegetation to the confines of the tropical circle.

The illustrated dictionary of gardening: A practical and scientific encyclopaedia of horticulture for gardeners and botanists. Ed. by George Nicholson; assisted by Professor J. W. H. Trail and J. Garrett. London : L. Upcott Gill, 1887.

This eight volume set has beautiful covers of green cloth with gilt lettering and plant designs to front board and spine. The text is supplemented with 24 fine chromolithographed plates and numerous woodcuts throughout the set.

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