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Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation


Cabinet of curiosities: Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt, Bookbinder

13 September 2018

On display through 30 June 2019 in the Cabinet of curiosities in the Hunt Institute lobby are the bookbindings of our founder, Rachel Hunt (1882–1963). From 1904 to 1920 she made more than 126 bindings, of which 77 are here in our Library. The Rachel Hunt bindings that we own were photographed in 2017, and a finding aid with PDFs of those photos is available on our Web site. Rachel's finished bindings are a testament to her artistic talent as a skilled craftswoman. We also have archival materials that describe the many stages in the process from Rachel's idea to her finished binding. Rachel kept a bindery record and photograph album where she recorded notes about specific bindings including the techniques used and where they were exhibited. She also kept a design scrapbook, which included folders of scraps of paper with designs to inspire her own ideas, her fully executed designs to scale on graph paper, and samples of marbled paper. We hope this Cabinet display serves as a window onto not only the art of bookbinding but also the creative process of our founder, Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt, as she found, developed and refined her design ideas. Stop by the Institute during our normal business hours to learn more about Rachel, her bookbindings and all those books about plants that she collected.

The cabinet of curiosities, also known as kunstkammer (art room) or wunderkammer (wonder room), emerged in the 16th century to describe a room devoted to objects of antiquity, archaeology, art, ethnography, geology, natural history and religion. In the 20th century Rachel Hunt (1882–1963) amassed a collection of botanical materials spanning the history of botany, which went on to form the core of the Hunt Institute's collections. We have greatly expanded it over the years, many items having come from the collections of others, like Rachel, who created their own cabinets of curiosities to understand the wonders of the world. From time to time we display some of those curiosities to share the wonders of the Institute's collections.

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About the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, a research division of Carnegie Mellon University, specializes in the history of botany and all aspects of plant science and serves the international scientific community through research and documentation. To this end, the Institute acquires and maintains authoritative collections of books, plant images, manuscripts, portraits and data files, and provides publications and other modes of information service. The Institute meets the reference needs of botanists, biologists, historians, conservationists, librarians, bibliographers and the public at large, especially those concerned with any aspect of the North American flora.

Media Contact:
Scarlett T. Townsend