Rare Books on the Web – Virtual Inspiration
This week’s blog is written by Alexandra Caccamo, Librarian at the National Botanic Gardens.
Many of you have been able to visit the library in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, where Colette Edwards and I work, and there you’ll have seen first-hand some of the rare books and botanical art in the collection. For those of you who haven’t been able to avail of a tour, I thought I’d put together a short list of virtual resources that you can peruse at your leisure. Some of the resources are items that we have in our collection but I’ve also included general resources that might be of interest.
One rare book which is always included as part of a tour is the Flora Graeca by John Sibthorp, illustrated by Ferdinand Bauer. The Radcliffe Science Library in Oxford has digitised the Flora Graeca, and made it freely available online. Along with the published version of the book, they have also digitised the original drawings, Fauna Graeca and Mediterranean scenes.
New illustration of the sexual system of Carolus von Linnaeus :and the temple of Flora, or garden of nature (or The Temple of Flora as it is more often known) by Robert John Thornton can be found in the Missouri Botanic Gardens digital library, Botanicus. This is another item that is in our collection but one we don’t often take out for tours, so here is a chance to get a glimpse of this beautiful book. They have helpfully indicated where the illustrations are, making them very easy to locate.
The oldest book in our collection, and one that is always included in a library tour, is Otto Brunfels’ Herbarum vivae eicones. A digital version of this is also available on Botanicus. Unfortunately, the illustrations are not marked on the page list but a browse through should reveal some of this book’s treasures.
Another digital library can be found at the website of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library in the New York Botanical Garden. This site has photographs, archives, stamps, nursery catalogues as well as some of their flower books available to view, as part of the Mertz Digital Collections.
And last but by no means least, there is the Biodiversity Heritage Library or BHL for short. This amazing resource is a collaborative project between a number of natural history libraries (including Missouri Botanical Gardens, LuEsther T. Mertz Library and the Natural History Museum to name a few) to make their collections available online. It is an essential resource for anyone interested in botany or natural history. On the main site you will be able to search for and view many rare botanical books, including items such as Redouté’s Les Liliacées along with many more. The BHL flickr stream might also be of interest as it features some magnificent illustrations from their digital library.
This is only a short list but I hope that gives you a flavour of what is available for you to view online.