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Selections from the University of Delaware Library Special Collections

The Horticulture Collection in Special Collections includes a significant collection of nursery and seed catalogs, trade literature, and ephemera. A sample of the collection is displayed here.


William Turner, ca. 1508-1568

The First and Seconde Partes of the Herbal of William Turner. . . Cologne: Arnold Birckman, 1568.

William Turner was one of the innovators of botanical science, and his Herbal is one of the seminal publications in English botanical studies. This is the first complete edition.


Versailles Illustrated. London: John Bowles, 1726.

The gardens at Versailles were designed by André Le Nôtre. The gardens' geometry and monumental scale had a lasting influence on formal garden design.

George Brookshaw, 1751-1823

Pomona Britannica, or A Collection of the Most Esteemed Fruits at Present Cultivated in Great Britain. London: Bensley and Son, 1817.

George Bradshaw was an admired draftsman and engraver of fruits and flowers. Originally published in 1812, Pomona Britannica celebrate the richness of food variations cultivated in England, with superb illustrations by George Brockham of 256 species of fruit.

Tecumseh Nurseries

[Nursery Sample Book]. Springfield, Ohio: Tecumseh Nurseries, [19th century?].
Gift of James Mitchell

Sample books such as this were used from the mid–nineteenth to the early–twentieth century as illustrated catalogs, which were used both at the nursery and by traveling salesmen representing the nursery. The plates were individually selected by the salesman from a printer’s catalog and subsequently bound together. The plates in this copy were produced by a number of different lithographers, most of them located in Rochester, New York. Each sample book, though assembled commercially from mass produced plates, is thus a unique item assembled at the individual’s discretion.

Goldthwait & Moore, Philadelphia, Pa.

A Catalogue of Garden, Grass & Flower Seeds. . . . Philadelphia: Thomas Bradford, 1796.

Philadelphia was one of the centers of the early American seed and nursery trade and this is a very early American seed catalog.

John Hill, 1714?-1775

Eden, or, A compleat body of gardening: containing plain and familiar directions for the raising the several useful products of a garden, fruits, roots, and herbage. . . London: Printed for T. Osborne..., 1757.

Botany was only one interest of John Hill, who worked as an actor and pharmacist and wrote numerous novels, plays, and books on theology and naval history. Hill is famous for introducing the Linnean system of botanical nomenclature to England. Eden is arranged as a calendar to guide the gardener week by week in the care of the garden.

John Lindley, 1799-1865

Ladies' Botany; or, A familiar introduction to the study of the natural system of botany. . . London: H. G. Bohn, 1865.

Lindley was a well-known botanist and horticulturist who became Professor of Botany in University College, London. He organized the first successful flower show of the Royal Horticultural Society in London in the late 1830s.

Robert Sweet, 1783-1835

The British Flower Garden: containing coloured figures & descriptions of the most ornamental & curious hardy herbaceous plants . . . ; with illustrations by E.D. Smith. London: Published for the author by W. Simpkin and R. Marshall, 1823-1829.

Robert Sweet was a horticulturalist who wrote several botanical books. He became notorious, however, when he was charged with receiving a box of plants stolen from the royal gardens at Kew. He was acquitted after a well-publicized trial.

Henrietta Maria Moriarty, fl. 1803-1812

Viridarium: coloured plates of greenhouse plants, with the Linnean names, and with concise rules for their culture. London: Printed by Dewick & Clarke for the author, 1806.

Little is known about the life of Henrietta Moriarty who wrote and illustrated several botanical books as well as a novel. In a later edition of Viridarium, Moriarty wrote that the study of the Linnean system of botanical classification, while scientifically correct, should not be taken up by the young because of its emphasis on the sexual function of plants.

Garden plan with fruits and flowers from the papers of Deborah Ferris Bringhurst (1773-1844), Chester County, Pennsylvania, circa 1800.

Deborah Ferris, daughter of prominent Chester County Friends Ziba & Edith Ferris, married Dr. Joseph Bringhurst, a pharmacist and civic leader of Wilmington, Delaware, in 1799. Among Deborah's domestic records are recipes, medicinal remedies, formula for household paints, building plans, and this garden plan. This pen-and-ink drawing with watercolors reflects a Southeastern Pennsylvania style of illustration and symmetrical use of space. Note the appearance of a mother and two children under the grape arbors in the foreground, one of whom is eating a bunch of grapes.

Harriet Elliot notebook of drawings from nature, copied verse, and nature prints made at Minto House, Roxburghshire, Scotland, 1807.

Minto House, built in the 1700s in Roxburghshire, Scotland, was the ancestral home of the Elliot family, whose 1st Earl of Minto, Sir George Gilbert (1751-1814), was a noted politician diplomat. The peerage and Minto House—the center of which was a 16th-century tower later encased, enveloped, altered, enlarged, and terraced over the centuries—were named for Minto Hill, a prominent feature of the local landscape. The idyllic parkland of the Elliot family estate is the subject of several sketches in this notebook, which bears the name of Harriet Elliot and the date 1807. Copied verse in the volume includes “The Gentle Shepherd,” a pastoral comedy by Allan Ramsay (1725), which, along with nature prints from leaves and ferns, also reflect Harriet Elliot’s deep sense of place in the hilled landscape of southern inland Scotland.

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