Archives For Library Talk

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.

Ampelography: I Heard It Through the Grapevine is on view now through November 8, 2015, in the Lenhardt Library.

PHOTO: Dark purple grapes hang on the vine, just before harvest.

The vineyard at harvest time

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).

Ed Valauskas, curator of rare books, will present a free library talk about the exhibition on Sunday, September 27, at 2 p.m.

ILLUSTRATIONS: Lithograph by G. Severeyns.

Lithograph by G. Severeyns

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.

There is so much to appreciate with each sip!

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and

The Victorians had it, and so do we, right here at the Lenhardt Library! A new rare book library exhibition has just opened as part of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s 2015 Orchid Show: Orchidelirium: Illustrated Orchidaceae.

ILLUSTRATION: Oncidium papilio

Oncidium papilio from A Century of Orchidaceous Plants Selected from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine: Consisting of a Hundred of the Most Worthy of Cultivations by William Jackson Hooker (1785–1865). London: Reeve and Benthem, 1851

No matter what you call it, the Victorians were mad for the sensational new plants arriving in England from every exotic location on Earth. The race was on, as botanical explorations took orchid collectors from one end of the globe to another in search of the most beautiful, rare, vibrantly colored, sensuously shaped orchids to be found. Orchid fever flared again and again, from the first time the Victorians saw a Cattleya labiata from South America (it bloomed after arriving as packing material in 1818), to the orchid display of the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, designed by gardener, architect, and member of Parliament Sir Joseph Paxton (1803–65).

And if that wasn’t enough, books, articles, and botanical journals were also devoted to the orchid.

No photography? No Internet? No matter! Botanical illustrators captured orchids in all their thought-provoking beauty, one engraving and lithograph at a time. These trained illustrators caught the clinical and technical aspects of the plants with sheer precision. After Cattleya labiata, the next Victorian orchid-on-demand was Oncidium papilio, the butterfly orchid, which is one of the most dazzling illustrations in Orchidelirium: Illustrated Orchidaceae.

ILLUSTRATION: Vanilla planifolia.

Vanilla planifolia from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine: Comprising the Plants of the Royal Gardens of Kew by Joseph Dalton Hooker (1785–1865). London: L. Reeve & Co., 1891

This year we celebrate Vanilla planifolia, an edible orchid that produces the second most expensive spice in the world, next to saffron. An entire case is devoted to the vanilla orchid—look for Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker’s Curtis’s Botanical Magazine: Comprising the Plants of the Royal Gardens of Kew, London: L. Reeve & Co., 1891.

Chocolate and vanilla lovers: don’t miss the rare plate from Zippel and Bollmann’s Ausländische Culturpflanzen in Bunten Wand-Tafeln  (Foreign Cultivated Plants in Colored Wall Panels with Explanatory Text) that was used as a tool for teaching plant anatomy. Like many of our rare orchid books and journals, this fragile plate was in much need of conservation. It was conserved through a grant by the National Endowment for Humanities; the digitized plate can be accessed online at the Illinois Digitized Archives.

ILLUSTRATION: A match made in Heaven—vanilla and chocolate together!

A match made in Heaven! Vanilla and chocolate illustrated together in this plate from Ausländische Culturpflanzen in Bunten Wand-Tafeln by Hermann Zippel and Karl Bollmann. Braunschweig: Druck und Verlag von Fredrich und Sohn, 1880–81

Orchidelirium: Illustrated Orchidaceae is open daily until April 19, 2015, with extended weekend hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) during The Orchid ShowJoin us for free library talks on Tuesday, February 24, or Sunday, March 1, at 2 p.m.

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and

The Garden Turns 40

Documenting our Past, Planning for the Future

Leora Siegel —  January 5, 2013 — 3 Comments

Chicago Botanic Garden visitors know that the Garden celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. In looking back over the Garden’s growth since 1972, Garden staff, members, and visitors appreciated the remarkable changes that had taken place. The 40th anniversary website includes a timeline of significant events, historical photos, and opportunities for community members to share their experiences at the Garden.

Fewer Garden visitors are aware of the early years of the Chicago Horticultural Society, which dates back to 1890. At a free talk about The Garden Turns 40: Documenting our Past, Planning for the Future exhibition last week, I shared some of this history with those who attended.

In 1890, the goal of the Horticultural Society of Chicago was “the encouragement and promotion of the practice of horticulture in all its branches and the fostering of an increased love of it among the people.” This is in perfect alignment with the City of Chicago’s motto of Urbs in Horto (Latin for city in a garden). The Society shared this message through flower shows. Currently on exhibition in the Lenhardt Library are a poster from a 1900 flower show and a pamphlet from the 1914 flower show.  Seeing the original, primary source documents from the Garden’s early history is inspiring.

PHOTO: The Garden Turns 40 Exhibition

Also on display as a part of the Garden Turns 40 exhibition is an original record book from 1890–1904. It includes all types of documents including board minutes (many of which were hand scribed), by-laws, financial records, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, meeting notifications, and other materials that were of interest to Society members. This is the only original document from the early period in the archives of the Chicago Horticultural Society.

The record book is open to the first page, which has a list of officers. You can see some names crossed off and others added. This is because it was a working document. As board members changed each year, the names were updated on the list. One civic leader who was involved with the Horticultural Society of Chicago and listed as an officer is Andrew McNally (from the Rand McNally family of maps and atlases).

See these items and more at the Lenhardt Library.  Feel free to ask library staff questions. If you have any family stories about how this Garden got started please share them with us; we’d love to hear from you.

©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and