Posts Tagged ‘history’

There is nothing better than a good story about people and plants. If you like to read about plants, people and history too, consider reading The Big Apples of New York: The Story of How New York State Became The Big Apple by A.L. DuBois.

DuBois is a native New Yorker and a botanical artist who first learned about New York’s agricultural history when she moved to the Hudson Valley after graduating from college. At this time, she also learned that her family is linked to the founding of Flushing, Queens, the first apple town in the United States. Research on her family and the history of New York revealed a lack of books linking the state’s apple history to it’s current history, so she decided to combine her passion for history with her passion for botanical art and write a book of her own.

In The Big Apples of New York, DuBois explains apple history and symbolism, how the apple was the first fruit tree imported by colonists and how New York state established itself as a major apple producing area. She writes about the Prince family nursery, the first commercial nursery in the New World, and the prominent Livingston family — their orchards, hardships, successes and their link to the historic Montgomery estate. She also explores the mystery surrounding the expression “The Big Apple” and its link to slavery and the Underground Railroad. Her historical account of events occurring before, during and after the Civil War is interesting, disturbing and will change how you view apples at the grocery store.

DuBois’ book is as much about the current state of apples in present-day New York as it is about its history.

Chenango Strawberry. © A.L. DuBois, All rights reserved

Chenango Strawberry. © A.L. DuBois, All rights reserved

Garden historians, teachers, fruitarians, and anyone with an interest in apples will be pleased to learn that family-friendly events such as apple festivals are alive and well in New York. DuBois shares information about 9 festivals, one of which has an annual attendance approaching 70,000. She also shares how the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) honors the state’s apple history and discusses the orchard replenishment program by Slow Food NYC.

Included in The Big Apples are apple recipes for treats such as Apple Cobbler by the CIA and Fidget Pye, an apple, onion and bacon pie dating back to 1795. Also included are Apple Facts from the USDA, instructions about how to grow an apple tree from seed like the colonists once did, and a directory to 190 apple orchards in New York.
DuBois’ full-color botanical illustrations were created using watercolor, Derwent colored pencils and tempera paint. It took her more than two years to draw and paint the twenty-five varieties featured in her book.

The Big Apples of New York: The Story of How New York State Became The Big Apple is a self-published title and can be ordered directly from the author for $30.99. Please allow one week for shipping.

Literature Cited

DuBois, A.L. 2013. The Big Apples of New York: The Story of How New York State Became The Big Apple.

Do you have a question for Ann about her research or the botanical illustrations created for her book?
Post your question below.

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quenchTravel_MBest_England2014 This year Canadian artist and teacher, Margaret Best, travels to England on a 10-day journey to historic sites of significance to the world of botanical art.

Join Margaret September 17-26, 2014 and visit the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, tour the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, tour the Marianne North Gallery and spend a week painting at Colesbourne Park, the estate of Lady Carolyn and Sir Henry Elwes. Among the planned excursions is a visit to The Prince of Wales’ country estate Highgrove, home to his famous gardens and the Highgrove Florilegium.

Immerse yourself in the history of botanical art. Download the detailed itinerary to learn more about this unique adventure.

Botanical Art in the Cotswolds with Margaret Best

September 17-26, 2014
Cost: $4,775 Canadian (convert currency)

This information has been added to the Classes Near You sections for Canada and England.

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Paardebloem [De Europische insecten], Merian, Maria Sibylla, 1647-1717,Transfer print, hand-colored, 1730, Dandelion, with caterpillar. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Paardebloem [De Europische insecten], Merian, Maria Sibylla, 1647-1717,Transfer print, hand-colored, 1730, Dandelion, with caterpillar. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Sometimes we work on projects and wish we could include an image from a historic resource or an image created by a famous artist to show connections or to reinforce learning. Many good ideas have been cast aside because of questions like — Where do I look for the image I want to use? How do I ask for permission to use it? How much will it cost?

The Getty Research Institute has made the dilemma of image use a little easier to manage thanks to their Open Content Program. Launched in August 2013, the Open Content Program features digital images to which the Getty holds the rights or images that are in the public domain. The database has more than 10,000 images of works of art that include paintings, drawings, artists’ sketchbooks, sculptures and much more. The Getty Museum released 4,600 Museum images in August and the Research Institute added 5,400 in October. These images can be used for any purpose. No permission is required and the images can be used for free.

Natural history artists and educators will find many items of interest in the Open Content Program. For starters, it has 1,397 images about the natural world. Included are works of art by Maria Sibylla Merian and Jan van Huysum. Users can search for artists by name, search for specific types of art (e.g., drawing, photographs, etc.) or search by topic. Searches for topics such as trees, plants, flowers, and insects will keep you busy for quite a while.

This database is large and you will find yourself clicking here, there and everywhere. If you get lost in your own search, all you have to do is click on the Search History tab at the top of the page to view your search history and to revisit subjects you have explored.

The Getty Research Institute has made art and history accessible to everyone and it is a wonderful resource for artists, naturalists and educators.

Visit the Open Content Program


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This month we’re looking at how our hands are involved in how we create, teach and communicate. Today we continue to explore this topic by considering what scientists draw and create with their hands.

In Envisioning Explanations – The Art in Science, professor David C. Gooding discusses how scientists tell visual stories. He distinguishes between static visualizations (i.e., printed images), multimedia images and the types of images visual artists and scientists create in their respective disciplines.

Regarding the latter, Gooding (2004) compares images in the visual arts to images in the sciences. He describes images in the visual arts as being “self-sufficient…carriers of meaning” (Gooding, 2004) and describes images in the sciences as having more than one purpose. He explains that scientific images have many functions. They first serve to convey “a tentative understanding” of an event and then serve as an aid to communicate this event to others (Gooding, 2004).

In his article, which is part of a collection of articles about science illustration, Gooding provides examples of how scientists have translated observations and large amounts of information into hand-drawn images and hand-built models — forms of visualization, he explains, science demands because “science is mostly about processes we cannot experience” (Gooding, 2004).

The examples of visualization he refers to include:

  • Michael Faraday’s sketch describing the relationship between electricity, magnetism and motion.
  • Re-animating extinct organisms by reconstructing fossils using drawings and the transformed mental imagery of the scientist and artist.
  • Constructing visualizations of vascular structures.
  • Stacking images to create 3-D models.
  • Plotting patterns to build molecules.
  • Using diagrams to explain an invisible process.

Through these examples and others, Gooding (2004) brings attention to the art (i.e., patterns, dots, sketches, datasets, etc.) in science while showing how scientists, as science communicators, try to deliver “intellectual understanding” (Gooding, 2004) of an experience through visualization.

While Gooding’s focus is science illustration in general, what he writes about applies also to the study of plants.

If you are interested specifically in how botanists and artists have historically described plants and presented plants to a general audience, consider books about the history of botanical art, such as Martyn Rix’s The Golden Age of Botanical Art and Karin Nickelsen’s superb book about the creation of 18th-century botanical illustrations.

Dr. Gooding’s Envisioning Explanations was published in a special issue of the journal of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews dedicated to the topic of science illustration. Gooding (2004) can be purchased online for $39 or obtained at your local college library.

Also included in this issue of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews is
When the Botanist Can’t Draw, an article about how Linnaeus described plants.

Literature Cited

Gooding, David C. 2004. Envisioning explanations – the art in science. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. 29(3): 278-294.

Also See

Imagery in Scientific Communication

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Mandrake. Image courtesy of M. Moleiro Editor, S.A., all rights reserved

Mandrake. Image courtesy of M. Moleiro Editor, S.A., all rights reserved

The historic Tractatus de Herbis, codex Sloane 4016 can now be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the history of botany, botanical illustration or the history of medicinal plants.

The new facsimile reproduction has been published by Spanish publisher Moleiro Editorial whose specialty is the reproduction of codices, maps and works of art made on parchment, vellum, paper and papyrus between the 8th and 16th centuries.

The reproduction of Tractatus de Herbis features 218 illuminated pages and is bound in embossed dark green leather. It is an exact replica of the original and is accompanied by a volume of commentary written by Alain Touwaide, Smithsonian scholar and co-founder of the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions.

Institute co-founder, Emanuela Appetiti, explains the significance of this historic work:

The manuscript Sloane 4016 is a large album of botany made sometime around 1440 in Italy. Although it is traditionally identified as a copy of the well-known Tractatus de herbis (Treatise on medicinal plants), it does not contain the text of this treatise, but only its illustrations. The major question posed by this manuscript is why it abandoned the text of the Tractatus, giving birth to the new genre of the botanical album. Significantly enough, the captions of the illustrations provide the names of the plants in the different languages used in the 15th century, all written with the Latin alphabet, however. They hint at the function of the botanical album as an international work that could be used by all the different linguistic groups, whereas the text of the Tractatus could be used only by those who understood Latin. In this view, the development of the botanical album is an unsuspected very modern phenomenon that sheds a completely new light on the history of botanical illustration and highlights a process of internationalization and, at the same time, of linguistic specialization coupled with a principle of economy that had not been uncovered so far.

Alain Touwaide explains more about the history of botanical albums in the description of the Tractatus de herbis, codex Sloan 4016 viewable on the publisher’s website.

Also available for viewing are 18 images showing the contents of this album. After reading Alain’s description, click on one of the images above his text. This will take you to a page where you can view all sample images.

Only 987 copies of this historic album are available for purchase worldwide. Alain’s commentary has been published in separate editions available in English, Spanish and French. To inquire about purchasing this limited edition reproduction at a special discounted price, contact the publisher.

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Download flyer

Download flyer

Scholars Emanuela Appetiti and
Alain Touwaide
will discuss their research into the medical traditions of the Mediterranean at the National College for Natural Medicines in Portland, Oregon on October 30 and November 1. Alain Touwaide will also present a special lecture entitled, The Legacy of Greece to Modern World Medicine at the Hellenic-American Cultural Center and Museum on Saturday, November 2, 2013.

Emanuela and Alain founded the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions. The Institute is a research and education organization with non-profit 501(c)(3) status hosted by the Smithsonian. Through the Institute, Emanuela and Alain pursue their research activities, including research for the PLANT program. The acronym PLANT stands for PLantarum Aetatis Novae Tabulae (meaning in Latin Renaissance botanical illustrations).

The research Emanuela and Alain conduct is fascinating. If you have an interest in medicinal plants, herbals or history, their lectures are not to be missed.

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TheTradescantsOrchard There is a book about fruit that is surrounded by mystery and intrigue.

Is it a book?
Is it a catalog?
Is it a teaching tool about fruit trees?

The Tradescants’ Orchard is more catalog than book and, according to evidence of how often each painting has been handled, was also a teaching tool, according to authors Barrie Juniper and Hanneke Grootenboer.

Juniper and Grootenboer, together with the Bodleian Library, have published The Tradescants’ Orchard: The Mystery of a Seventeenth-Century Painted Fruit Book — a fascinating look at plantsman John Tradescant the elder, his son John Tradescant and their contributions to horticulture and the development of fruit orchards in 17th century Europe.

Originally called A Book of Fruit Trees with their Fruits (Juniper & Grootenboer, 2013), a photograph of this 400-year old manuscript is included in their book.

You are most likely already familiar with the Tradescants. The Spiderwort plants bear their family name (Tradescantia). Does this houseplant look familiar?

The Tradescant father and son team were responsible for introducing and raising many familiar garden plants (Juniper & Grootenboer, 2013). John Tradescant the elder was a sought-after plantsman in elite circles, operated a large nursery and, because of his extensive traveling, built an impressive cabinet of curiosities (Juniper & Grootenboer, 2013). When he died in 1638, John Tradescant the younger took over the family business and eventually became acquainted with Elias Ashmole.

This is where the story of the colorful manuscript containing 66 paintings of fruit and imaginary arthropods, frogs, birds, snails, a lizard and a squirrel gets very interesting.

Thought to be created somewhere around the 1620s or 1630s, The Tradescants’ Orchard was published when interest in growing fruit and when creating horticultural information for the public became popular (Juniper & Grootenboer, 2013).

Who commissioned the manuscript?

How did it end up at the Ashmole Museum?

What is unique about the paintings?

Much is explained in the forty-one pages of text leading up to Juniper & Grootenboer’s reproduction of The Tradescants’ Orchard. Their book is yet another wonderful chapter about the history of botanical art.

Literature Cited

    Juniper, Barrie and Hanneke Grootenboer. 2013. The Tradescants’ Orchard: The Mystery of a Seventeenth-Century Painted Fruit Book. Oxford: Bodleian Library.

    Available at independent bookstores. ($65)

ArtPlantae is an IndieBound affiliate

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