Lenhardt Library Rare Book Collection

Rare Books - Tulipe
A selection of our digitized rare books is accessible through our LibGuide

The Library presents rare book exhibitions each year with an accompanying free gallery talk to share these treasures with a public audience.

The Lenhardt Library is focused on developing a collection of national prominence that strengthens its service to researchers and the visiting public. In 2002, the Library acquired a collection of rare books and journals from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society of Boston.

This acquisition brought to the Chicago Botanic Garden a truly magnificent collection of approximately 2,500 rare books and 2,000 historic periodical titles.

Offering a comprehensive perspective on five centuries of research in botany, botanical art, horticulture, agriculture, gardening, and landscape design, these volumes present an outstanding opportunity for scholars to chart the evolution of the modern science of botany—uncovering intricate relationships between science and art, botany and medicine, and humans and nature. These works also document U.S. flora at the time of European settlement, tracing the progression of our agrarian society and offering insights into nineteenth-century customs and values in which science, art, and nature intersect. The collection reflects a relationship between people and the plant kingdom that has been documented since the earliest days of print, when botanists were not simply plant describers, but explorers.

The oldest book in the collection, Historia Plantarum by Theophrastus (d. 287 B.C.E.) published in 1483, details the first known classifications of plants in the Western world. The description of plants and the author's method of using a social network of colleagues for collection became a model for medieval and renaissance botanists centuries later.