Leora Siegel is the Senior Director of the Lenhardt Library, one of the treasures of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Open to the public 7-days a week, its 150,000-volume collection encompasses resources on gardening, botany, plant conservation, and landscape design, in formats from rare books to e-books. Library initiatives focus on public engagement, collections, and collaborations.
Come to the Seed Swap on February 28, and see a demonstration of the Lenhardt Library’s new seed library, set to launch next month.
Seed sharing is a resource for the community, just as libraries are a community resource for books. A seed library is where one may “borrow” seeds to sow, and if successful, harvest, save, and return some to the library for others to borrow the following season. We aim to cultivate an interest in home gardening and seed saving.
Many are familiar with planting seeds, so we’ll focus on seed saving—a less familiar aspect of the food cycle. The Lenhardt Library’s seed library will be geared toward the novice who has little experience with seeds, but all are welcome to participate. We’ll provide horticultural assistance and step-by-step instructions as part of our program.
Seeds in this seed library are primarily heirlooms (varieties that have been in cultivation for 50 years or more), and/or open-pollinated (pollinated by bees or wind), so that the next generation seed retains the identical characteristics of the parent. Seed companies Renee’s Garden and Seed Savers Exchange have generously donated seeds to get us started; tomato, beans, lettuce, and more await you.
In 2015, the Illinois Seed Law was amended, making noncommercial seed libraries such as this one legally exempt from commercial requirements such as testing and labeling. Now we’re ready to get started!
We hope you’ll visit and borrow seeds for your home garden, whether it’s a large plot or a terra cotta pot on a windowsill.
One of the reasons I love being a librarian is that I learn something new almost every day.
When a book catalog featuring Illustrated Historical Universal Ampelography: Grape Varieties from Around the World (published in 2012) landed on my desk, I went for a dictionary. I was completely taken with my new word of the day—“ampelography”—and its definition. My thoughts raced to placing this subject on my list for future rare book exhibitions.
The field of horticulture is full of very specific words meaning very precise things. Viticulture is the study of grapes and their production, and in this case, ampelography is the study of grapevines—not wine, but the vines and their grape varieties.
My family visited California in August, and a visit to wine country was on my itinerary. I wanted to see grapes on their vines, not only in tasting rooms with delicious samples. It turns out that some of the history of California and United States vineyards can be traced through volumes in the Lenhardt Library’s Rare Book Collection.
The first book on winemaking in America, by John Adlum (1759–1836), was published in 1823. A Memoir on the Cultivation of the Vine in America, and the Best Mode of Making Wine emphasized the use of American rather than European grapes. Adlum cultivated Catawba grapes in the Washington, D.C., area. Native to the United States, Catawba grapes grew in a region that stretched from North Carolina to Maryland region.
Agoston Haraszthy (1812–69) established the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, California, in 1857. It was the first commercial winery established in California. Haraszthy brought European viticulture methods with him from his native Hungary and established California viticulture. In 1862 he published Grape Culture, Wines, and Wine-Making: With Notes upon Agriculture and Horticulture as well as other essays on grape growing for the California State Agricultural Society (of which he was president in 1862).
By the mid-1860s, Haraszthy’s vineyards were suffering from phylloxera, an aphid-like insect that feeds on roots of grapevines and stunts their growth. Phylloxera spread to Europe and decimated its wine industry. American disease-resistant grapevines were introduced in Europe to help eradicate the wide-spreading disease. Due to the art and science of grafting phylloxera-resistant rootstock, by the turn of the twentieth century, French viticulture recovered. The following two books describe the processes of grafting, and vine resistance to phylloxera:
La Laurencie, comte de. Pratique de Plantation et Greffage des Vignes Américaines (Planting and Grafting Practices of American Vines) Paris: Librairie Agricole de la Maison Rustique, 1895.
Millardet, Pierre-Marie-Alexis (1838–1902). Histoire des Principales Variétš et Espèces de Vignes d’Origine Américaine qui Resistent au Phylloxera (History of the Major Varieties and Species of Original American Vines Resistant to Phylloxera) Paris: G. Masson, 1885.
When opening a bottle of wine, connoisseurs and novices alike may evaluate the color, aroma, and taste. The vintner (winemaker) sees to the harvest, juicing, fermentation, storage, and bottling. Behind each bottle, however, the viticulturist considers many parameters from the soil, climate, fertilizer, disease and pest control, rootstock, vines, and varieties. It is all of these factors—and people—working together that determine the final product.
In early May, I was gratified to hear that the Lenhardt Library’s application to become an affiliate member at the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) had been accepted. BHL is an open access, all digital repository of biodiversity literature.
BHL founding member libraries are based at universities, botanical gardens, and natural history museums, and include renowned institutions such as the Missouri Botanical Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Harvard University, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
These libraries contribute digital scans of books and journals in their collections. All pages are freely accessible through the BHL portal. Constantly updated, as of today, BHL includes 43,697,651 pages of biodiversity literature. Users of biodiversity literature are researchers based around the globe with nodes in Europe, Australia, and China. BHL also serves as the foundational literature component of the Encyclopedia of Life.
Plans for the Lenhardt Library’s involvement are to contribute literature unique to our collections and not held at other libraries. That may mean adding early volumes that pre-date current content in BHL, filling in missing horticulture resources, or adding volumes from the rare book collection.
Another recent Lenhardt Library affiliation is with the Center for Research Libraries (CRL). CRL is a library’s library with holdings of 5 million items. The Lenhardt Library joined this consortium of academic and research libraries to gain access to these materials to fulfill library research needs for the Chicago Botanic Garden’s staff and visitors.
Partnerships and collaborations are vital to small research libraries such as the Lenhardt Library for advancement and growth. Library collections and resource sharing ensures literature is available for study, scholarship, and scientific advancement.
As I compiled the latest rare book exhibition at the Lenhardt Library, I got to know several fascinating women from the past. They were among the first women to be recognized as botanical illustrators, and their work opened doors for generations of women to follow. The exhibition, Feminine Perspective: Women Artists and Illustrators, running through November 10, traces the development of women in the field of botanical illustration from at-home hobbyists to professional artists who were published under their own names, with their works represented in the respectable journals, displayed in galleries and art shows, and accepted professionally.
For Henrietta Moriarty who published in 1807 London, botany was a moral dilemma. The renowned botanical theory of plant classification by Carl Linnaeus discusses plant reproduction and reproductive plant parts; the material was decidedly not appropriate for a proper Victorian woman and outright dangerous for a young girl. Moriarty solves this moral dilemma by writing and illustrating her own book, Fifty Plates of Green-House Plants, Drawn and Coloured from Nature, with concise descriptions and rules for their culture. Intended for the improvement of young ladies in the art of drawing, secondedition, 1807.
Her 50 botanical illustrations are each hand-colored and focused on the beautiful flower with a botanical description but lack any discussion or representation of plant reproductive processes. Moriarty, a widow with children, needed to support her family and found writing and illustrating a botany book to be productive. She presold 180 copies by subscription. View each page of this lovely book online at the Illinois Digital Archives.
To hear more stories on the personal circumstances and the success of women in botanical illustration, come into the library! We’d love to share more about these illustrators and more:
Henriette Antoinette Vincent (1786 – 1830) Ellen Robbins (1828 – 1905) Lady Harriet Ann Thiselton-Dyer (1854 – 1945)
For a schedule of upcoming exhibitions and library talks, click here.
The Lenhardt Library hosts remarkable exhibitions throughout the year. These exhibitions highlight parts of the collection that visitors might not otherwise see, and the exhibitions are among the Garden’s best-loved secrets! Stacy Stoldt, public services manager of the Lenhardt Library, curated the current exhibition, Butterflies in Print: Lepidoptera Defined, open now through August 18.
By far, the highlight is Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (Metamorphosis of Surinam Insects) by Maria Sibylla Merian, published in 1719 in Amsterdam. This volume is on loan from the Owen H. Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine, Bio-Medical Libraries, University of Minnesota.
See Butterflies in Print:LepidopteraDefined at the Lenhardt Library through August 18, 2013.
Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717) was a fascinating woman, artist, and naturalist. While she was known for her watercolor paintings of flowers and insects, embroidery patterns, and copper engravings, she is also credited with being the founder of German entomology. At age 13 she began studying the metamorphoses of silkworms and butterflies. After five years of intense study, Merian found that adult insects actually lay eggs, disproving the earlier theory that caterpillars were born out of spontaneous generation.
Divorced in 1699, she traveled with her daughter Dorothea to the Dutch Colony of Surinam (now known as Suriname) that same year to continue her entomological work and art. Her spectacular artistic abilities and scientifically accurate representations make Metamorphosis of Surinam Insects a monumental tome. Carl Linnaeus consulted Merian’s illustrations in the course of his taxonomic work in the eighteenth century. Nine species of butterflies, six plants, and two beetles were named for her. She is still a well-known historic figure today and is represented on the 500 deutsche mark bank note and a German postage stamp; she was the subject of Google’s Doodle of the day on April 2, 2013, celebrating her 366th birthday.
Butterflies in Print was designed to complement the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition that showcases native and tropical live butterflies; Maria may have even seen some of these species in Suriname 300 years ago!