Nerd out on 19th Century Art…and Science

Stacy Stoldt —  April 4, 2017 — 4 Comments

When I was in elementary school, I thought wall charts were the coolest things. Here I am, biblio-nerd-supreme, 40 years later, and I still think so! 

Botanical wall charts were introduced in the late nineteenth century and grew in popularity until the 1960s. During that time they were considered fundamental educational tools. Produced as high-quality, brilliantly colored posters, botanical charts were used not only in primary schools, but in university economic and systematic botany classes as well. The large-scale format allowed students to see the botanical posters from any seat in the classroom or lecture hall.

No longer used in formal education, nineteenth-century classroom posters have regained popularity as vintage poster art. 

One of the wall charts from Ausländische Culturpflanzen in Farbigen Wandtafeln mit Ertläuterndem.

One of the wall charts from Ausländische Culturpflanzen in Farbigen Wandtafeln mit Ertläuterndem

See Botanical Charts: 19th-Century Classroom Posters through Sunday, June 11, 2017

The botanical charts featured in the Lenhardt Library exhibition Botanical Charts: 19th-Century Classroom Posters were produced by Hermann Zippel and Karl Bollman—a botany teacher and print-shop teacher, respectively—who taught at the same high school in Gera, Germany. They combined their skills and produced these beautifully crafted charts called Ausländische Culturpflanzen in Farbigen Wandtafeln mit Ertläuterndem, translated as Foreign Cultivated Plants in Colored Wall Charts with Explanations.

Come see these beautiful illustrations of plants depicted in their full-color life cycles.


With grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, these charts have been conserved and digitized, and are freely accessible at the Biodiversity Heritage Library: www.biodiversitylibrary.org

©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Stacy Stoldt

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Stacy Stoldt is Public Services Manager at the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden. She loves to talk about—and show off—the library's rare book collection; researching and creating the exhibitions, and learning as much as she can about the books in the collection. She enjoys traveling (to vineyards and libraries), and is the proud owner of a Deluxe Nancy Pearl Librarian Action Figure.

4 responses to Nerd out on 19th Century Art…and Science

  1. Tina T Garrison April 4, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    How long will the charts be on display?

    • Hi, Tina. The charts will be on display through Sunday, June 11. Hope you get a chance to visit and see them in person.

  2. Your displays are always my favorite part of the garden. I took my students to see these wallcharts already. And the earlier orchid illustrations. They are such rare and valuable educational materials. Thank you so much, Stacy!

  3. Thank you so much, Heeyoung. That is truly the nicest compliment coming from such a world-renowned botanical illustrator as yourself! Your work is brilliant!

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