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Catalogue of Botanical Books in the Collection of Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt

 

This catalogue, now out of print but available in many libraries, provides a detailed bibliographic record of 800 rare publications, mostly botanical, in Mrs. Hunt's collection. It also contains several chapters on various historical aspects of the collection as well as some information on the complexities of the bibliographic description of rare books.

From the preface to the Catalogue of Botanical Books in the Collection of Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt, compiled by Jane Quinby and published in Pittsburgh by The Hunt Botanical Library, 1958–1961:

"Happy are they who have memories--you are my whole youth. I find you mixed up with all my joys ..."
—Emile Zola

I have loved books from my youth. Botanical books have been mixed with all my pleasures.

When I was a little girl, I lived on my Grandmother's estate, in a large house on a hilltop, surrounded by great trees and many gardens. Perhaps I inherited from her my interest in gardening, for she loved every inch of her acres. She owned an Inn here in Western Pennsylvania, where George Washington had come, years before, as a young surveyor. That was in the village below our hilltop. There were farms beyond the hill, and a deep valley below with a pond, where the wildflowers of Western Pennsylvania grew rampant—arbutus, hepatica, blood root, white and purple violets. I learned to know the wildflowers by name when a friend of my Mother's gave me a wildflower book when I was six years old—How to Know the Wildflowers , by Mrs. William Starr Dana. It was my "Bible"—and in my Library today I have that same book.

Interest in books developed, and my first gardening book (bought when I was fifteen) was The English Gardener, or A Sure Guide to Young Planters and Gardeners , by Leonard Meager, 1670. We have on our place in Pittsburgh, ELMHURST, a knot garden the design of which was taken from that particular book, part II. In 1940 I copied a part of that knot garden for the New York Flower Show. Work and study had occupied me for many years and my botanical collection grew—and collecting botanical books became a passion, and still is. To quote Zola once more: "We have faith in ourselves because we have penetrated our hearts and flesh."

... The more one collects, the further back one goes into history and the deeper one delves into the subject. As my botanical book collection grew, I acquired a long series of portraits of botanists, mostly engraved; and I collected, also, illustrations (prints and original drawings) of the plants and flowers named for them or by them. All of these collections I have shown and lectured on in many museums, galleries and libraries throughout the United States, and the print collection still grows. I also acquired many autograph letters of botanists—but that is another story.

Eventually I found myself owning many of the key books in the history of botany, and I wanted to share my pleasure in them with other students and collectors by having them described in catalogue form ...

Over the years I have climbed mountains of stairs, for many rare books are housed on the second and third floors of buildings. In time, my Library came to include not only the long-sought herbals but also the books that grew out of herbals—little manuals on early gardening, some lovely folio books with color plates of flowers, botanical travels so fascinating to read and enjoy, some early cookery books, books of emblems—almost every subject connected with botany including unusual pamphlets.

May this catalogue as a whole ... be of high service to future users.

—Rachel Hunt

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