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Digging for Books and Bulbs: Plant-related resources in PACSCL collections

Title illustration by courtesy of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Library

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Detail, American painted lady. Click for full illustration at the Academy's website.

Academy of Natural Sciences

The Ewell Sale Stewart Library of The Academy of Natural Sciences has one of the finest collections of literature on the natural sciences in the Western Hemisphere, including the great botanical works of European authors such as Leonhard Fuchs, Jan Commelin, Mark Catesby, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, François-André Michaux, and Peter Simon Pallas. American authors include Philadelphians such as William Bartram, William P.C. Barton, and Joseph Carson. The library also collects current scientific literature in plant systematics and taxonomy. The Academy's Herbarium is the home for the original plant specimens collected by Lewis and Clark on their transcontinental journey of exploration.

Botanical links

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Galloway Terra Cotta Co. Click for enlargement.

Athenæum of Philadelphia

The Athenæum of Philadelphia is an example of a document collection containing a wealth of landscape records but one that requires persistence and care on the part of the researcher to identify and locate those documents within the larger collection. Researchers are encouraged to closely examine collections such as this, as landscape records are often contained within architectural collections. Moreover, the work of even prominent landscape architects can frequently be hidden within a body of documents of an architectural firm or within a collection of documents for a particular site. While the architects for a site are often catalogued and cross-referenced in finding aids or indices, landscape architects seldom are so listed.

Within the matrix of the Athenæum's well-known architectural records collection can be found significant holdings of landscape documents, in particular those related to Philadelphia landscape architectural firms. There are also numerous documents of landscape projects executed by Philadelphia architectural firms or firms identified as architectural but also employing landscape architects and executing landscape-related projects. The reference collection of the Athenæum also contains significant holdings of books and periodicals relating to landscape architecture.

Miscellaneous drawings and/or business records and photographs of the following are in the collections of the Athenæum: Alexander Mackie Adams (1879-1967); F. Furman Bett (fl. 1922-1927); Robert M. Gemmill (1905- ); Mellor, Meigs & Howe; L.B. Schofield (fl. 1885); Thomas W. Sears (1880-1966); Robert Cridland (fl. 1895-1930); and Willing, Sims & Talbutt.

Useful references to biographical and holdings information on these designers can be found in the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Database,

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Detail, Hepatica angulosa. Click for enlargement from Bryn Mawr website.

Bryn Mawr College Library

Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections holds a large number of illustrated botanical books printed before 1900, ranging from Renaissance medicinal guides and Enlightenment taxonomic treatises to the garden books and field guides popular among hobbyists and amateur botanists of the nineteenth century. The illustrations in these books cover the full spectrum of printing techniques, from descriptive woodcuts intended to aid in plant identification to colorful lithographs of artfully arranged flowers. For more information, see

College of Physicians of Philadelphia

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Detail, blue gentian. Click for enlargement.

The Historical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia contains approximately 2,000 books about botany and the use of plants for medicinal purposes. The oldest herbals in the collection date to the fifteenth century: Dioscorides' De Materia Medica (1478) and the anonymous Hortus Sanitatis (1491). Other notable works include William Turner's New Herball (1551); John Gerard's Herball (1633); Carl von Linné's Systema naturae (1758); Samuel Stearns' American Herbal or Materia Medica (1801); William P. C. Barton's Compendium floricae Philadelphicae (1818); and U.S. Pharmacopeias from 1820 to 2000.

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Herb garden. Click for enlargement

Complementing the Library's collection is the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Herb Garden, organized into 4 parterres and located adjacent to the building on 22nd Street. The garden boasts of over 55 herbs which have been used for medicinal preparations since the Revolutionary War era. Some are commonly used today, such as Chamomile (Matricoria recutita), Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum). Others may be less well known, such as Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) and Woolly Betony (Stachys officinalis). Each plant is labeled with its common and botanical names and therapeutic uses.

Free Library of Philadelphia

The Free Library of Philadelphia has been collecting books on gardening, garden planning, landscape architecture, and related subjects since 1893. There is an excellent selection of recent books for loan in the Central Library, especially in the ART DEPARTMENT, in Dewey numbers 712-719; and in the BUSINESS & SCIENCE DEPARTMENT, Dewey 635. There is also a very large selection of older titles in the stacks, including the classics of Gertrude Jekyll, Graham Stuart Thomas, and all the other great garden writers of the 20th century. Discover these through the library's online catalog.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

The manuscript collections relating to gardening and horticulture at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania range across the centuries. Noted early material includes the papers of John and William Bartram and letters from British horticulturalists Thomas Binks and the two John Blackburnes to William Logan. There is also an anonymous manuscript volume entitled Directions for raising nurseries, planting orchards, dated 1772, which has instructions and advice regarding the cultivation of plants and planting of orchards, derived from written sources, word of mouth, and personal experience.

Nineteenth-century materials include Mary Edith Powel's journals, in which she tracked her activities in her garden: "October 17 1896. Planted in the north west of the "wild garden plot" 29 lily bulbs (from Farquhar's Boston). They were set in 2 inches sand and six inches of earth on top of them, the ground being very rich from last spring I did not add fresh manure - Two weeks later they were covered well with litter but this being an unusual autumn all bulbs are now growing and I fear disaster."

Garden-loving enthusiasts often found each other and formed associations. The Garden Club of Philadelphia, organized in 1904 for the purpose of "promoting an interest in gardens, their design, and management," held regular meetings at members' homes, where they presented lectures on gardens and gardening. Happily, they often photographed the meetings, and there are numerous photos of behatted ladies in lavish garden settings. HSP holds the Club's records from 1904-1979, and the notes, minutes, and lectures reflect horticultural trends of the last century. These women also combined their horticultural expertise and political activism: one small group of papers deals with the Club's participation in the Women's Land Army of America, 1917-1918, and agricultural reconstruction in France in 1918.

There are many other materials at the Society that relate to gardens and horticulture, including maps, watercolors, and photographs of gardens and nurseries, annual reports and bulletins of horticulturally-minded organizations, as well as additional manuscript material.

Library Company of Philadelphia

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Detail, John Birch, The View from Springland. Click for full image and caption

The Library Company of Philadelphia, best known as a research library for early American history, is also a rich resource for anyone interested in American garden history through the nineteenth century into the twentieth. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century holdings include the English books that the colonists used for referencne. In the seventeenth century everyone had Worlidge's Systema Agriculturae , from William Penn to Samuel Carpenter. In the eighteenth, it was Richard Bradley, John Laurence, Batty Langley, and then Philip Miller, in all eight editions; even Benjamin Franklin had a copy. The commonly used American publications were the almanacs, which gardeners often annotated as diaries, to the delight of the historian.

Nineteenth-century holdings include American books, beginning with M'Mahon's Calendar, moving on to Downing and Scott. Meehan's Monthly is a rich resource. Catalogues - not only Philadelphia nursery catalogues - that tell us what was actually available back up the "how to" books. The print department has some prints and some early watercolors - particularly nice, because images of gardens in the first half of the nineteenth century are hard to find.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

image - 1896 rose catalogThe Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is a private, non-profit organization, headquartered in downtown Philadelphia. Formed shortly after PHS's founding in 1827, the McLean Library reflects American horticultural trends both historically and currently. It serves the needs of amateur and professional horticulturists, landscape architects, garden historians, and researchers. It is used by the public and by the Society's members and volunteers. The collection supports the horticultural and urban greening activities of the staff.

The Delaware Valley is known as "America's Gateway to Gardens" and has a long tradition of intense interest in gardens and arboreta of every size and kind. The library's Pennsylvania Collection reflects the Mid-Atlantic region's horticultural history. The McLean Library houses a rich collection of Delaware Valley seed and nursery catalogs, 1860-1950. The Mary Helen Wingate Lloyd Collection consists of significant European and American gardening imprints from the 16th-20th centuries. The library houses the archives of the Philadelphia Flower Show and the Society. The library also houses nearly 30,000 images of the Philadelphia Flower Show, pre-World War II estate gardens of the Philadelphia area, and garden and landscape images from around the world, 1930's-1960's.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has horticulture-related works throughout its collections. The Library has books on the subjects of flowers and gardens in art, flower arrangement, landscape design, gardens, garden design and garden history with broad cultural scope. We have many books on oriental gardens and ikebana, a notable example being The Flowers of Japan and the Art of Floral Arrangement by Josiah Condor, dated 1892, which features hand colored illustrations by Japanese artists. Another offering from the Museum collection is an eighteenth-century book by Jacques Rigaud, (1681-1753), titled Jardins de Versailles, which features engraved plates by Le Pautre and Silvestre.

The Library is open to researchers and Museum members Tuesday through Friday, 10AM to 4PM. Appointments are strongly recommended.

Rosenbach Museum & Library

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Detail, "The garden of live flowers." Click for image and captioning information.

The Rosenbach's American historical collections are rich in accounts of European explorers, whose descriptions of the continent included its rich plant life. Among these are John Josselyn's New-Englands Rarities Discovered (1672); and Benjamin Franklin's 1751 Philadelphia edition of Thomas Short's Medicina Britannica, with notes on American plants by John Bartram. Early American leaders' interest in horticultural matters is represented by manuscript material like George Washington's letters to the English agriculturalist Arthur Young, and Philadelphian Isaac Norris's annotated copies of Poor Richard's Almanack, which provide valuable evidence of the gardens and grounds of his now-vanished country house at Fairhill. Gardens also flourish in the literature collections, from the painted roses and talking flowers of Lewis Carroll's Alice books to Robinson Crusoe's island plantings and poet Marianne Moore's depictions of Brooklyn's Botanic Garden and Prospect Park. The outstanding illustrated work in the collections is the Histoire Naturelle (1749-1803) by the Comte de Buffon, keeper of the royal botanical gardens in Paris. Its 56 volumes form the first modern systematization of natural history, and include nearly 3,000 engraved plates showing animals in their natural surroundings.

University of Pennsylvania Library

The Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library, a unit of the University of Pennsylvania Library, provides services and collections in support of Penn's program in Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.

Subjects collected include garden history and design, landscape restoration and theory, and environmental design. The Perkins Architecture Library supports study in the history and theory of architecture as these disciplines have evolved over the centuries. For example, holdings include Asher Benjamin's American Builders' Companion (1820) and Andrew Jackson Downing's Cottage Residences (1842). The collections are available for consultation at the Fisher Fine Arts Library.

Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

Garden History and Design. The library's collection of printed material on gardening, developed from the core collection owned by Winterthur founder H. F. du Pont, focuses on American landscape theory and design of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and on the English and European works that influenced them. Eighteenth-century source books include Richard Bradley's New Improvements of Planting and Gardening, both Philosophical and Practical and John Lawrence's Clergy-man's Recreation, both published in London in 1717. Many nineteenth-century gardening books in the collection are noteworthy not only for their description of the theory and practice of landscape gardening but also for their superb color plates. The illustrations of gardens and outdoor structures as well as plants and animals represent the best of nineteenth-century color printing. The periodical collection contains many important titles including The Gardener's Magazine and Register or Rural and Domestic Improvement, published from 1826 to 1839, and the English magazine The Garden, published from 1871 to 1927.

Garden Ornament and Supplies. The Winterthur Library's collection of trade catalogs and advertising ephemera includes many items concerning the decoration and maintenance of the garden. From the 1835 catalog for Austin's Artificial Stone Works, which includes fish ponds, flower pots, and sundials, to late nineteenth-century ads for wrought iron garden furniture, the material reflects the changing taste of the home gardener. Advertising material for seeds, plants, and other garden supplies are also represented in the collection. In addition, the Decorative Arts Photographic Collection at Winterthur has hundreds of photographs of garden furniture, primarily wrought iron work in the rustic and Victorian styles.

The Shaker Garden. Of special interest is the gardening material in the Edward Deming Andrews Memorial Shaker Collection. The collection contains both manuscript and published writings on gardening as well as hundreds of seed packets and labels for seeds and medicinal products produced by the Shakers. Elisha Myrick's manuscript "A Diary Kept for the Use and Convenience of the Herb Department" was written at the Harvard village between 1853 and 1857. He discusses planting, weather, and the daily routines of the herb gardener. In 1836 Charles F. Crosman published The Gardener's Manual: Containing Plain and Practical Directions for the Cultivation and Management of Some of the Most Useful Culinary Vegetables; to which Is Prefixed a Catalogue of the Various Kinds of Garden Seeds Raised in the United Society in New Lebanon... The first of a series of Shaker gardening guides, this was sold outside the village along with the Shakers' seeds and other garden products.

The Winterthur Garden. H. F. du Pont's lifelong interest in gardening is reflected in the collections of the library and the archives. Influenced by the English garden theorists Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson, du Pont adopted the English emphasis on color and the natural landscape. In the 1930s du Pont sought the advice of landscape architect Marian Cruger Coffin in planning for a garden to complement the expansion of the Winterthur house. This collaboration continued until Coffin's death in 1957. The many books on garden history and design that were purchased by du Pont have become a core part of the library collection. An unpublished manuscript in the library recreated du Pont's horticultural library. Du Pont's notes and plans for the gardens are available for study in the Winterthur Archives. Included is a collection of 400 autochromes, produced between 1910 and 1916, that record the color and design of the Winterthur landscape. Winterthur also houses the papers of landscape architect Marian Cruger Coffin. This collection of correspondence, specifications, drawings, planting lists, and photographs record her work for such notable clients as Marshall Field, Frederick Frelinghuysen, Childs Frick, and Frederick Vanderbilt as well as H. F. du Pont.

PACSCL wishes to thank garden historian Elizabeth McLean for presenting her lecture, "Digging for Books and Bulbs, or, Old Garden 'Dirt' and Where to Dig It," at the 2003 Philadelphia Flower Show on PACSCL's behalf. The lecture was the inspiration for the creation of this page of PACSCL plant-related resources.



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