American Wildflowers: National Geographic Illustrations by Mary E. Eaton and Incipit: Botanical Title-Pages
1 November 1976 – 25 March 1977
The Institute opened two exhibitions for fall 1976. On display in the gallery was American Wildflowers: National Geographic Illustrations by Mary E. Eaton, which consisted of 160 plant portraits selected from the large permanent collection of the artist's work housed at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. English-born Mary Emily Eaton (1873–1961) was staff artist at the New York Botanical Garden from 1911 to 1932, where she produced a prodigious number of botanical illustrations, mostly in watercolor, for various scientific journals. From 1915 to 1925 the National Geographic Magazine printed a series of seven articles featuring color reproductions of Eaton's work, and in 1924 the Society published The Book of Wild Flowers, with over 200 of her paintings reproduced in color. Both the magazine articles and the wildflower book represented expensive and ambitious projects in the early years of color printing, and the exhibit contained a large selection of the original artworks for these publications. The detailed watercolors depicted common and unusual wildflowers and flowering shrubs found growing all over North America, from a Southwestern desert cactus to Canadian forest flowers. Information was provided about geographic distribution and common and scientific names to make this exhibition a field guide on the walls. A brochure accompanied the Eaton exhibition.
The second exhibition, displayed in the reading room, utilized our Library's large collection of rare, medieval herbals. Incipit: Botanical Title-Pages made use of the medieval scribes' custom of beginning a manuscript text with the simple start, "Incipit..." or "Here begins..." instead of a title page. The books on display traced the development of title-pages with a selection of historical, artistic and amusing title-pages from botanical publications dating from the late 1400s to the Victorian era. The earliest book on display was the famous Gart der Gesundheit (Garden of health), printed in 1485 by Peter Schoeffer, an associate of Johann Gutenberg. Also on display were title-pages from gardening handbooks, natural history encyclopedias and Victorian flower books.