Flora Virginica and the Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands

An advertising graphic that reads: "Flora Virginica" within a border of dogwood blossoms. Below the graphic is the text "On display in the Special Collections Reading Room February 5 - March 16." In the lower right corner is the Virginia Tech University Libraries logo.Over the past few months, I’ve stepped outside my normal topical areas of social justice and the history of traditionally marginalized communities. This departure was related to an exhibit titled Flora Virginica that is on display in our reading room from February 5, through March 16. I enjoy putting together exhibits, so I was happy to take this on even though it was something I knew nothing about. This blog post will include a description of the exhibit, the reasons for its existence, and the interesting history I discovered while putting it together (only not in that order). Enjoy!

An Exhibit, In Partnership

In 2012, the Flora of Virginia Project published Flora of Virginia (QK191 .W43 2012), a 1,572 page comprehensive compendium of Virginia plants. It’s a thick botanical tome of little interest to most people outside the botanical sciences. We acquired multiple copies in the library when it was first published and it isn’t one of our particular collecting focuses. It wasn’t something we were particularly focused on highlighting.

Skip ahead to fall of 2017 and an email from the Massey Herbarium to the Director of Special Collections mentioning an exhibit about Flora of Virginia that the Massey was going to be hosting. Special Collections was being involved because there was an opportunity to display an original Flora Virginica in support of the Massey exhibit. This is where I entered the process.

Over the course of a couple of months, I worked with Jordan Metzgar at the Massey Herbarium and Bland Crowder, editor of the 2012 Flora of Virginia, from the Flora of Virginia Project to arrange a loan of an original 18th century Flora Virginica. During the process of arranging this part of the exhibit, it was suggested that I might also wish to exhibit some 18th century Mark Catesby prints alongside the book. Still not knowing much about the project or the books, I opened discussions with Lynn McCashin, the Executive Director of the Garden Club of Virginia, to arrange a loan of some of their Catesby prints. The next few months consisted of multiple emails negotiating the logistics of the loans. As the date for the exhibit approached, I began to research these items so that I could create some didactic labels for the exhibit (those short little descriptions that go next to items in museum-type displays).

In order to adequately describe the 1762 edition of Flora Virginica and the 1771 Catesby prints – and explain what they had to do with one another and Virginia history, I had to learn that history myself. Where did I start? A general web search, of course. Wikipedia offers great superficial overviews on just about any topic. That was enough to get me oriented before moving on to better sources including the Encyclopedia Virginia, JSTOR Global Plants, the Catesby Commemorative Trust, The Royal Society, and the University of North Carolina Libraries. During the course of this research, I learned some interesting details about the people who created these items and their places in botanical and zoological history.

Flora Virginica, 1762

A photograph of a copy of the 1762 Flora Virginica open to the section on Monandria and Diandria. On the left side is a fold-out map of the Virginia colonial region that is larger than the bound book.
Flora Virginica, 1762 printing

Flora Virginica (QK191 .G86 1739a) is a precursor to Flora of Virginia. They are actually named the same – just in different languages. The original Flora Virginica was published in two parts, the first in 1739 and the second in 1743. Then, a combined edition was published in 1762. All three editions were published in Latin by Lugduni Bavatorum publishers in Leiden, Zuid Holland, Nederland. They all list Johannes Fredericus Gronovius as the person who classified the specimens and wrote the book. They also list John Clayton as the observer and collector of the plants. This attribution has led to much debate over the correct citation of authorship. Many, using modern standards, have claimed that Gronovius plagiarized Clayton’s work. Scholarship as recent as 2004 has addressed the authorship issue directly and concluded that Clayton likely did not have much chance of being published without the help of someone like Gronovius and the actions of the latter would not have been deemed plagiarism using the standards of the 1700’s. Proper credit for authorship, then, is probably to list them both.

Amidst the issues of authorship, I discovered some interesting things about the men who created what was the only comprehensive listing of Virginia plants for over 200 years. John Clayton was born in England in 1694/5 and came to America sometime before 1720. His move to the Virginia Colony was likely due to his father’s position as Attorney General of Virginia. Clayton was an amateur botanist. He was a plantation owner, a slave owner, and Clerk of Gloucester County, VA for more than 50 years. He liked to travel around the state and collect specimens of flora and fauna.

Gronovius was a Dutch naturalist and friend of Carl Linnaeus. He built up a reputation in the Netherlands as a botanist and had his own herbarium. He was considered a professional and had standing within the scientific world to publish. As part of Clayton’s  amateur botanical work, he compiled for Gronovius a catalog of various plants using Linnaean classification. This catalog is what Gronovius eventually turned into Flora Virginica.

So what about Mark Catesby?

Mark Catesby was born in 1683 and was an English naturalist and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He first traveled to Virginia in 1712, accompanying his sister and her children. Over the next seven years (1712-1719), he collected and sent to England a variety of botanical specimens from Virginia and Jamaica before returning to England himself. During this time, at least one ornithological specimen and several plants were provided to Catesby by John Clayton. That one connection is why the Catesby prints are often displayed with Flora Virginica … that one connection and the fact that the Catesby prints include gorgeous illustrations of many of the plants mentioned in Flora Virginica.

After a few years in England, where he became a member of The Royal Society, Catesby returned to America to begin work on his grand project. He spent the next 20 years compiling specimens, teaching himself to illustrate them, and writing his Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (QH41 .C28 1754).

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He wrote and illustrated the book(s) entirely himself, publishing them in eleven sections totaling more than 220 hand-colored etchings. In order to finance all this work, Catesby sold subscriptions, offering the book in sections of 20 plates every four months. The first section was published in 1729 and he presented Her Majesty Queen Caroline with her copy in person. Following Catesby’s death in 1749, his work was republished twice, in 1754 and 1771. Catesby’s work was done before Linnaean classification was developed but the 1771 reprint includes a catalog of the Linnaean names for the flora and fauna depicted in the book.

While Flora Virginica is recognized as the most comprehensive listing of Virginia plants from 1739 to 2012, Catesby’s History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands is known as the earliest published work illustrating and describing North American flora and Fauna. It was published almost 100 years before Audubon’s The Birds of America (QL674 .A9 1827a).

The Exhibit

Through the generous courtesy of the Flora of Virginia Project and the Garden Club of Virginia, we have an exhibit containing a 1762 original Flora Virginica, a 1946 reproduction Flora Virginica, and two Catesby prints from the 1771 reprinting: The Summer Red-Bird, The Western Plane Tree and The Red Start, The Black Walnut. This exhibit gives viewers a chance to appreciate the wonderful history of all of the items with an abbreviated version of the information presented here. If you’re in the area and want to see the exhibit in person, stop by Special Collections and take a look.

While you’re visiting, if you are interested in taking a look at a copy of Flora Virginica in person (reading Latin helps),  Special Collections has one copy of the 1946 reproduction on site and two in remote storage (QK191 .G86 1739a). If you want to see the amazing Catesby illustrations in person, Special Collections has a copy of the 1754 reprinting of Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (QH41 .C28 1754). As for the 2012 Flora of Virginia, Newman Library has two copies and Special Collections has one (QK191 .W43 2012). And, if you’re curious about Audubon’s The Birds of America (QL674 .A9 1827a), Special Collections has a 1985 issue of the double elephant folio in our reading room – it’s our only item with its own piece of furniture.

A full listing of events related to the Massey Herbarium Flora of Virginia exhibit is available at masseyherbarium.org/fov.

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Expressions of Remembrance: April 16th 10th anniversary exhibits

As part of Virginia Tech’s annual observance of its Day of Remembrance, condolence items and artifacts received by the university in the days that followed April 16, 2007, will be displayed at several locations across campus. The displays are among several “Expressions of Remembrance” that will be located in Newman Library, Squires Student Center, Moss Arts Center, and Holtzman Alumni Center; they are free and open to the public.

Each year, in observance of the Day of Remembrance, University Libraries at Virginia Tech displays materials from the April 16 Condolence Archives and invites the community to reflect and remember.

Below is a list and photos of exhibits all around campus. For more on each, please see the press release and the We Remember website.

Sending You All Our Love

The exhibit will include materials received from other colleges and universities, as well as some of the large white boards and signs created on the Drillfield the week of April 16, 2007. Additional items include flags, t-shirts, and condolence books, and a quilt from the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at State University of New York College at New Paltz. The exhibit title came from one of the quilt squares, each of which was made by a SUNY student.

This display can be seen April 8-16 in the Old Dominion Ball Room in Squires Student Center.

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Remembering Those Lost

Artifacts include flags flown over the Statue of Liberty and at Tikrit Air Academy in Iraq by soldiers during Operation Iraqi Freedom; Farham Aboussali’s painting Ceremonial Eternity; Carol Davis’ 32 hand-decorated eggs; Marilyn Rogge’s painting of a child releasing a red balloon; a KoKeshi Doll from the U.S. Navy Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, Japan; and some of the paper cranes received.

This display will be held April 8-16 at Newman Library Special Collections (first floor). Part of the exhibit is in the windows of Special Collections onto the cafe, open during library hours. A second portion of the exhibit is inside Special Collections, open Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm.

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A Community of Learners, a Legacy of Achievement

A selection of books will be displayed to honor of the students and faculty lost on April 16, 2007.

This display will be held April 8-16 at Newman Library Learning Commons.

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Communities of Caring

A digital exhibit featuring community expressions of support from the April 16 Condolence Archives.

This display is available online at http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/exhibits/show/april16/introduction.

Communities of Caring April 16th 2017 digital exhibit
Communities of Caring April 16th 2017 digital exhibit

April 16 Condolence Archive display

Items include cards and letters written to police and first responders; a display of the badges of police units who came to help Virginia Tech; Cheryl Thompson’s painting, Remember the 32; condolence books; quilted squares from Union Village United Methodist Church; black marble laserworks by David Cunningham, and April 17th Hokies United by Miss Price’s second grade class from Riverlawn Elementary, Fairlawn, Virginia.

This display will be held April 12-May 3 at the Holtzman Alumni Center.

Passages

A quiet, contemplative space for remembrance and reflection, this display will include prayer flags from the Virginia Tech Graduate Arts Council, Hillel, Living Buddhism, and Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the New River Valley and photographs from the community.

This display will be held April 12-16 at the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery and Sherwood P. Quillen ’71 Reception Gallery in Moss Arts Center.

Selections from Appalachian Collections

Today marks the beginning of the 40th Annual Appalachian Studies Association Conference, taking place here at Virginia Tech! Our archivist Marc Brodsky has set up an exhibit in Special Collections to show off some of our collections documenting the history of Appalachia. Please come by to take a gander today or tomorrow during our open hours, if you are interested in what he has highlighted from our collections! If you can’t make it, take a lot at some of the display:

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Let me tell you about some of the items on display and related material. There are selections from numerous collections that span 200 years. A few have been discussed previously on the blog, including the “Call to Arms” letter from the Robert Taylor Preston Papers, Ms1992-003, and a beautiful scrapbook with poetry, flowers, and rings of hair from Daniel Bedinger Lucas Papers, Ms1995-012.

One of the earliest documents regards slavery in the 18th century from the Dickson Family Papers, Ms1988-094. An example is the following bill of sale for a “Negro Boy Named Elijah”:

A bill of sale for a slave, a young boy named Elijah, in 1796
A bill of sale for a slave, a young boy named Elijah, in 1796 from the Dickson Family Papers, Ms1988-094

We also have items from the Black, Kent, and Apperson Families Papers, Ms1974-003. Harvey Black, the great-nephew of Blacksburg’s namesake William Black, was a field surgeon in the Civil War. He served as the superintendent of the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, then became the first superintendent of the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum in Marion upon its opening in 1887:

Harvey Black portrait from the Mathew Brady Studios
Harvey Black portrait from the Mathew Brady Studios

Here is the text of the first annual report for the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum, 1887:

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Some of the other collections that I have not pictured here include

These items are always available for you to look at, even if you can’t come to the temporary exhibit!

Women’s History Month 2017

This year for Women’s History Month, Special Collections has some special things going on! We will have a display on the second floor of Newman Library near the main entrance. “Remarkable Women Throughout History: Snapshots from Special Collections” is a month-long display (March 1-31) with posters, items in exhibit cases, and a book display from the circulating collection. In addition, we will also have more materials from our collections on display in the exhibit cases in our reading room on the first floor near the cafe. We invite you to visit our exhibits during the month of March and learn about our collections and some of the remarkable women represented in them.  (We’re grateful to our amazing colleagues throughout the library who helped us make this happen, as well as the students who delved into our stacks and boxes to find the stories of these women to share.)

womensmonth_poster_2017feb

For the fifth year running, our “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” blog will continue its “Women’s History Month” series, highlighting the contributions of women to the culinary and agricultural fields! You can view the posts to date here: https://whatscookinvt.wordpress.com/category/feature-items/womens-history-month/. New posts should also show up under this category as they are published. We don’t have all the posts planned out just yet, but we know will be featuring the work of Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall (cookbook author, artist, and activist), Mrs. D. A. Lincoln (author and educator), and Ellen Swallow Richards  (one of the first women to teach at MIT).

And, although we didn’t build a new digital display this year, we do still have our exhibit from 2016 available in case you missed it! You can view it online here: http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/exhibits/show/womens-history-2016.

Keep in mind there will be events all over campus in March 2017. The Women’s Center at Virginia Tech has a calendar here: http://womenscenter.vt.edu/Program/womens-month.html. We encourage you to check it out and join in where you can!

In Support of the Veterans in Society NEH Summer Institute

Masthead for the Veterans in Society Summer Institute website
Masthead for the Veterans in Society Summer Institute

For months, co-directors Jim Dubinsky of the English Department and Bruce Pencek of the Library, along with Heidi Nobles have been working to plan and seeking to provide for every detail necessary to make this three-week long NEH-supported Summer Institute for College and University Teachers a reality. This past Monday (the 11th) was the first day in a schedule that will have the 25 extraordinarily accomplished participants from all over the country in Blacksburg this week and in D.C. next week before returning to Blacksburg for the third and final week of the program.

The official name of the Institute is “Veterans in Society: Ambiguities and Representations.” The impressive list of faculty include Jonathan Shay, author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming. Among his other accomplishments, Shay has served as the Chair of Ethics, Leadership, and Personnel Policy in the office of the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel and, in 2007, received a MacArthur fellowship for his work on trauma and the moral injuries of war. Jim Marten is past president of the Society of Civil War Historians, author many books, including Sing Not War: Civil War Veterans in Gilded Age America and the award-winning The Children’s Civil War. Donna Musil is a documentary filmmaker, writer and activist, whose film, Brats: Our Journey Home will be shown as part of a three-show film series that is open to the public. More about that in a moment. Actually, these are just three of the stellar faculty that are participating in the Institute along with Tech’s own Paul Quigley, Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies and James I. Robertson, Jr. Associate Professor of Civil War History; Edward Fox, Professor of Computer Science; and David Cline, also from the History Dept. and who specializes in 20th century U.S. social movements, oral history, and public history. You get the idea . . . and I’ve left all kinds of folks out. For a complete list, see the Institute’s terrific website.

So, what is it that all these fine folks have come to Virginia Tech to discuss and study? Broadly speaking, they are defining the dynamic that may be leading to the emergence of a new interdisciplinary field, that of Veterans Studies. More specifically, the topics range widely, from the ways in which classical literature may play a part in understanding and assisting veterans to the role commemoration and monument building play in cultural memory and the process of reconciliation following war; from the ways in which stories of military service can be captured in oral history to a consideration of the unique perspectives offered by women veterans; from asking, “Who is a veteran?” and considering the social status of veterans to the effects of war on military children and the ways the voices of veterans emerge in music and literature . . . and everything in between and beyond. The reality is that the fact and aftermath of military service define threads that run through every culture, across the generations, and have an impact on the most significant aspects of life and society. Through the seminars, presentations, and activities listed on the Institute’s syllabus, the participants will seek to investigate these and other questions, while defining the beginnings of individual research projects.

Display of materials related to veterans at Special Collections for the Summer Institute
Display of materials related to veterans at Special Collections for the Summer Institute

On their second full day in Blacksburg, the members of the Institute had an opportunity to hear about collections of primary sources that may be of interest to them at Special Collections. We set up a display of a few documents and other items and, after a brief introduction, made that exhibit available to them, and to the library community for much of the week. While some of the materials have been displayed before, there were several items that have not been exhibited in recent memory.

Theophilus Cocke Letter, 1907, Ms2008-057
Theophilus Cocke Letter, 1907, Ms2008-057

For example, to the right is a scan of a letter written in 1907 by Theophilus Cocke of Carroll County, Virginia. Mr. Cocke was a veteran of the Mexican War (!) writing about the provisions of a new pension bill that would raise his allotment from $12 per month to $20.

In a letter written from Kansas in June 1865, H. E. Norton complained that veteran members of his Michigan Brigade were due to be mustered out following the end of the Civil War, but were instead sent west. He writes, “[I]t is Generally Believed that the Michigan Brigade was Basely sold by the Governor of the State of Michigan for we could never have been transfered to this Dept. if he had not consented to it.” Norton ended up in Nebraska Territory. Extended tours are, apparently, nothing new.

From the Conan W. Vaughan Papers, Ms1991-050: photographs from the European theater, 1945; a copy of Stars and Stripes; a French 10 franc note; and a piece of a German Ju-88 shot down over Iceland
From the Conan W. Vaughan Papers, Ms1991-050: photographs from the European theater, 1945; a copy of Stars and Stripes; a French 10 franc note; and a piece of a German Ju-88 shot down over Iceland

Once in Washington, the Summer Institute participants will spend a day at the Library of Congress and visit Arlington National Cemetery. They’ll talk about the LC’s Veterans History Project and stop at the Confederate memorial, Arlington House, and the U.S. Colored Troops graves. On the way back to Blacksburg, they’ll stop at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford.

Back in town, there will be more seminars, more opportunity to explore topics of interest, and to discuss ideas with the other participants. More time to check out primary sources.

Veterans In Society Summer Institute Presents Film Night
Veterans In Society Summer Institute Presents Film Night

There is also a public component to all of this. The Institute is sponsoring a Free Movie Night. The showing of Coriolanus has already gone, but on July 21st they will be showing The Best Years of Their Lives, a terrific, Oscar-winning movie about returning World War II vets, and on July 25th will be a showing of Brats: Our Journey Home, the documentary mentioned above, with writer and director Donna Musil on hand. These shows begin at 7PM in the MultiPurpose Room on the first floor of Newman Library. Again, the public is invited and admission is free!

Words of Comfort: An exhibit of letters from around the world in the April 16th Condolence Archives

Things have been busy in the University Archives of Special Collections this month, with two exhibits going up this and next week. The first is the memorial exhibit honoring the memory of the victims and survivors of the tragic day of April 16, 2007. Every year we commemorate that day with an exhibit of items from the April 16th Condolence Archives. Please read the press release below to find out more about this year’s event.

The second is an update to the Virginia Tech Alumni Association’s (VTAA) Alumni Museum, with whom Special Collections has worked for over a decade to provide university memorabilia for display. Several archivists and students have been selecting items to update the current display, which will be installed next week. There is no end date for the display of these items, as we plan to continue to working with the VTAA for years to come. Also, if you are attending next weekend’s Black Alumni Reunion, you will get to see several additional photographs from the university archives of many pioneering black female students and alumnae at Virginia Tech, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first six black women to attend the university in 1966: Linda (Adams) Hoyle, Jackie (Butler) Blackwell, Linda (Edmonds) Turner, Freddie Hairston, Marguerite Laurette (Harper) Scott, and Chiquita Hudson. You can learn more about them at The Black Women at Virginia Tech History Project.

Words of Comfort: An exhibit of letters from around the world in the April 16th Condolence Archives

Day of Remembrance display in Newman Library shares words of comfort and hope

Following April 16, 2007, schools, fellow universities, children, community and religious groups, businesses, and other individuals from around the world sent words of comfort and hope to Virginia Tech. These cards, letters, signs, and other handwritten items expressed the world’s condolences and gave Virginia Tech a global community of support.

This week, on April 15-16, many of these items will be on display in the Multipurpose Room on the first floor of Newman Library at 560 Drillfield Drive in Blacksburg. The exhibit, “Words of Comfort: An exhibit of letters from around the world in the April 16th Condolence Archives,” is free and open to the public, and will be on display from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

These items represent over 40 countries and every continent, showing the outpouring of support from around the globe. Selected items on display include:

The materials are part of the Virginia Tech April 16, 2007 Condolence Archives of the University Libraries.

Campus visitors also left symbols of comfort and signs of support at memorials around Virginia Tech, which were displayed on campus for several months before being gathered and inventoried under the direction of University Archivist Tamara Kennelly. Together, the collection consists of more than 89,000 materials available through Special Collections in Newman Library.

In the summer of 2007, many items were digitally photographed for preservation and to share with the world. A large portion of the Condolence Archives of the University Libraries is now publicly available online.

The upcoming exhibit is organized and curated by Laurel Rozema, processing and special projects archivist for the University Libraries’ Special Collections, and Robin Boucher, arts program director for Student Engagement and Campus Life.

Free parking is available on weekends at the Squires Student Center and Architecture Annex lots along Otey Street. Before 5 p.m. on weekdays, a valid Virginia Tech parking pass is required to park in these lots. Find more parking information online, or call 540-231-3200.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Laurel Rozema at 540-231-9215 during regular business hours prior to the event.

For more information and other expressions of remembrance, please visit the We Remember site.

 

Upcoming Events: Montgomery County Memory Project: People, Places, and Things of Montgomery County

The Montgomery County Memory Project: People, Places, and Things of Montgomery County, Virginia seeks to uncover local treasures hidden in corners of family homes, making connections within and among people in the community.

With the support of the Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center, the University Libraries at Virginia Tech, and the Christiansburg Library, along with a Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Samantha Parish Riggin organized a series of events for the Montgomery County community.

These events will educate the public about preservation and identification of artifacts, documents, manuscripts, and photographs while offering the opportunity to digitize them. Creating digital versions of family items will give visitors the opportunity to preserve items that may not withstand time so their families can have permanent digital keepsakes. The Memory Project events may also lead to discoveries that enrich Montgomery County history as well as visitors’ own family histories.

There are several events associated with the project:

  • A talk by Samantha Parish Riggin, “Antique Speak,” on April 10th from 2-4pm at the Christiansburg branch of the Montgomery-Floyd Public Library
  • Digitization day, April 23rd from 10am-2pm, Community Room at the Christiansburg branch of the Montgomery-Floyd Public Library
  • Digitization day, April 30th from 10am-2pm, Multipurpose Room on the ground floor of Newman Library at Virginia Tech
  • A talk by by Spencer Slough later in the summer, based on some of the items digitized at events in April. More information will be forthcoming in the future.

 

WVTF ran a story over the weekend that includes an interview with the project’s director, Samantha Parish Riggin. as well as some additional information. You can read the article and listen to the story online. Questions may be directed to the Samantha Parish Riggin, Program Director for The Montgomery Country Memory Project at 724-493-0750.