Hazelnut leaves in fall: photo and illustration.

Autumnal Leaves on Loan to Philadelphia

One of my favorite volumes in the Lenhardt Library’s rare book collection (although I love them all) is Autumnal Leaves by Ellen Robbins, published in 1868. Each of the 18 original watercolor paintings of autumn leaves looks so true-to-life that you want to reach out and pick a leaf off the page.

Sumac illustraion from Autumnal Leaves by Ellen Robbins.
Sumac from Autumnal Leaves by Ellen Robbins

This volume, specifically, the sumac watercolor, will be on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in the American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent exhibition which runs March 1 to May 14, 2017. I’m delighted that an East Coast audience will have the opportunity to share this treasure.

Although we’ll miss the book while it’s away, through the Lenhardt Library’s digitization program, each page of the book is viewable in the Illinois Digital Archives repository.

You’ll find the sumac shown here on page 4 of the content list. View the full collection of prints here: http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ncbglib01/id/3364/rec/2

Additionally, the sumac will be published in the American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent exhibition catalog.

A unique, one-of-a-kind book, this is the only copy listed with holdings in a library.

Bound with gold tooling and gilt edges, the volume is quite brittle and fragile. It has just been conserved by a professional book conservator to prepare it for exhibition.

Inside front cover, marbling, and bookplate for Ellen Robbins' Autumnal Leaves, published in 1868.
Inside front cover, marbling, and bookplate in Autumnal Leaves, published in 1868

Read more about Ellen Robbins and her extraordinary life and talent from retired curator of rare books Ed Valauskas in one of his Stories from the Rare Book Collection: Ellen Robbins, New England’s extraordinary watercolorist and floral artist.

Discover more about the current and rare books in the Lenhardt Library’s collection, which is open to the public. Members have borrowing privileges—become a member today!

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Published by

Leora Siegel

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.

3 thoughts on “Autumnal Leaves on Loan to Philadelphia”

  1. Thanks, Leora– we love having it in the exhibition and it looks spectacular– so pristine because it has been protected in the album. We are showing it with a larger framed watercolor of autumn leaves by Robbins that demonstrates how she stepped out to display her work at the first exhibition of the American Watercolor Society. It is great to see the two related works side by side, with their story of her progress as a woman artist in the new arena of watercolor painting. We will send you a copy of the catalogue soon, so you can see both works–and my ruminations about the connection to Emily Dickinson embedded in your album!

    1. I hope I’ll have a chance to visit PMA and see the entire exhibition this spring!

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