EXHIBITS: Hooked on Classic Texts

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Science  03 May 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5569, pp. 811a
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5569.811a

They don't make books like this anymore. Every copy of J. E. Smith's illustrated botanical treatise from the 1790s boasted 18 hand-colored engravings, such as this scarlet Euphorbia flower (Euphorbia punicea). The scanners at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis have been humming since 1995, as librarians have digitized Smith's magnum opus and 10 other rare, luxurious botanical works from the 18th and 19th centuries. The fruit of the work is a bibliophile's delight that also offers French botanist Charles Lemaire's monograph on cacti—only 11 printed copies still exist—as well as the mammoth, six-volume synopsis of French plants La flore et la pomone Francaises, from the 1830s. The site also provides brief bios of the authors and lets you ramble through a gallery containing all 1400 or so illustrations from the books.

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