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Rare Maps At Chicago Botanic Garden

Ruzan Haruriunyan's picture

An exhibition featuring maps revealing the global travels of plant explorers will be on display in the Lenhardt Library located in the Regenstein Center at the Chicago Botanic Garden from Friday, November 2 through Sunday, February 10, 2008. The Chicago Botanic Garden is one of 25 Chicago area cultural institutions participating in the first citywide Festival of Maps.

“These exquisitely detailed maps allow you to create a vivid image of the significant discoveries made by various plant explorers,” says Leora Siegel, manager of the Lenhardt Library.

This exhibition allows visitors to enter the age of plant exploration through the pages of beautiful maps found in the Library’s Rare Book Collection, which holds approximately 3,000 titles from the 15th to the 19th centuries.

One of the books featured is by Adolph Eschelskroon (1736-1793), an explorer who studied the natural history of several tropical locales in the 18th century, including Sumatra—now Indonesia. The island of Sumatra featured a variety of unique plants, such as Rafflesia—known for its unusually large flower and unpleasant odor. In the book, Beschryving van het eiland Sumatra, there is a remarkably beautiful hand-colored map, which features topographical details of the island.

French author J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur (1735-1813) wrote Letters from an American Farmer, a collection of essays on agronomic life in colonial America. This is considered one of the most influential accounts of a foreigner trying to understand what makes someone “American.” It contains a beautifully engraved black and white map entitled "Island of Martha’s Vineyard with its Dependencies."

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829), a French biologist, published the three-volume set of Flore Francaise, which he intended to be an identification manual of French flora. Flore Francaise contains an extraordinary color map titled "Carte Botanique de France (Botanical Maps of France)." This is the first biogeographical map ever published, which represents a shift in focus from maps representing distributional pathways to floristic provinces. All three maps will be on display in the Lenhardt library.

The Festival of Maps Chicago is an array of exhibitions honoring some of the most significant discoveries and boldest explorations. This collaboration will feature maps, globes, artifacts and artworks from the city’s finest cultural and scientific institutions. -- www.chicagobotanic.org

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