By Kathy Allen

Book and tree lovers alike recently converged at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to share personal stories about special trees with filmmaker Mara Pelecis, enjoy a special access tour of the Andersen Horticultural Library rare book room, and attend a book signing by award-winning author and nature photographer Stan Tekiela. Tekiela’s dozens of field guides and children’s books include the recently published Bald Eagles: The Ultimate Raptor; Birds of Minnesota Field Guide (3rd ed.); and Trees of Minnesota Field Guide (2nd ed.).

Numerous rare books on trees were displayed throughout the library, introduced by library assistants Adrienne Alms and Jocelyn Mehle. Among them:

  • Jacob Strutt’s “Sylva Britannica” (1826) showcases in text and etchings 50 individual trees in Great Britain, notable for their great size, age, or beauty.
  • The exquisitely illustrated “Description of the Genus Pinus” (Lambert, 1842) will be the focus of an upcoming winter exhibit at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
  • The “Highgrove Florilegium,” signed by Charles, the Prince of Wales, and “Plantae asiaticae rariores,” by Danish surgeon, botanist, and plant explorer Nathaniel Wallich, featuring 300 watercolors of East Indian plants (1830-1832).

Librarian Kathy Allen took a few people at a time into the climate-controlled rare book room for mini-tours. The very special items included:

  • The 13 volumes of Romeyn Hough’s “American Woods” (1893-1913), which contains actual slices of trees 1/2500ths of an inch thick — hundreds of them.
  • John Gould’s “Birds of Asia” (1850-1883): many of the bird portraits include images of trees or vines on which the birds are perched.
  • Comparison of the simple hand-colored woodblock picture of a fig tree from the 1542 “De Historia Stirpium” by Dr. Leonhardt Fuchs with the detailed and boldly colored fig rendered in Plantae Selectae by Georg Dionysius Ehret, considered one of the greatest botanical artists of all time.
  • The 93 beautifully illustrated volumes of Iwasaki Tsunemasa’s “Honzo Zufu,” a rare and valuable compendium of medicinal plants of Edo-period Japan, a recent purchase from the Andersen Horticultural Library’s wish list.

The more one peruses these historical books, the more interconnected all of natural history seems, with scientists building on each other’s work, naming species for colleagues or honored elders, and artists teaching or influencing future generations.

To make an appointment to see items from Andersen Horticultural Library’s rare book room, contact Kathy Allen: (612) 301-1239, HortLib@umn.edu.

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