Two Rare Botanical Books Featured in Library Reading Room

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Dear readers,

The library recently installed two very special books in the reading room. Though both offer botanical subjects, they represent divergent views of nature from two different time periods.

First up is Jim Dine’s exquisite set of drypoint engravings in book form modeled on the classic Temple of Flora first published in the very early nineteenth century by Dr. Robert John Thornton that combined images, poetry, philosophy, and botanical information. We’re also showing Dine’s bonded bronze sculptural box (bas-relief) made to hold the book, along with a single print on chine collé taken from the second state of the book’s frontispiece. We’re pleased to show this book as a tribute to longtime museum board president Ruth Carter Stevenson’s gardening interests and generosity to the museum. This copy came to the museum from Mrs. Stevenson in 2008.

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Jim Dine (b. 1935)
The Temple of Flora: Twenty-eight Drypoint-engravings
Botanical notes compiled and poetry selected by Glenn Todd and Nancy Dine
Intaglio printing by R. (Robert) E. Townsend, Inc.
Bas-relief sculpture on lid: Flora’s Temple Gate cast in bonded bronze by Jim Dine

San Francisco: Arion Press, 1984
Edition of 150
Gift of Ruth Carter Stevenson
2008.29

Next we have a very rare volume produced by Edward Vischer in 1862 of lithograph views documenting what was thought to be a singular grove of Sequoias in California in an area near Yosemite (the images in this book relate to the small exhibition on the second floor of the museum featuring Yosemite images). Many consider this collection of lithographs to be among the rarest pictorial records of early California. Vischer, a German-born artist, spent a good deal of his career in the commercial trade business in Mexico and Peru before turning his artistic focus to California. The museum’s copy has a distinguished provenance: it once belonged to Thomas Streeter, a famous bibliographer and collector of Americana and Texana.

This passage from the introduction which expresses the spiritual power of viewing these trees:

To the spirit bowed with affliction, or harrowed with cares, a pilgrimage to these shadowy shrines offords most soothing consolation. Behold the evergreen summits of trees that have withstood the storms of more than three thousand years! Gaze on the ponderous and almost imperishable remains of their sires. While lost in wonder and admiration, the turmoil of earthly strife seems to vanish; and the true harbinger of Peace, the olive branch of Hope, returns to the mind, in the comparison of Time with Eternity.

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Edward Vischer (1809–1878)
Vischer's Views of California: the Mammoth Tree Grove, Calaveras County, California, and its Avenues
Twelve lithographs by C. (Charles) C. Kuchel (1820–1866) after drawings by Vischer; printed by L.
(Louis) Nagel (b. 1817)
San Francisco: Edward Vischer, [1862]
1981.64

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