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Massachusetts Horticultural Society shares its collection of Botanical Prints

Massachusetts Horticultural Society shares its collection of Botanical Prints through the Digital Commonwealth

Lilly196Thanks to three months of collaboration between the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the Boston Public Library, and Digital Commonwealth, more than 1,000 rare images from the oldest horticultural library in the nation are now available at the click of a button.

With prints dating from 1620 to 1969, Mass Hort’s Botanical Print Collection captures more than three centuries in the evolution of botanical illustration, offering an invaluable resource for students, researchers, and authors in the field of horticultural. The digital portal will also create opportunities for the public to explore images that until now have been seen only by experts and aficionados, and to cultivate an appreciation for the art and science of horticulture from the comfort of their own homes.

Tom Blake, Digital Projects Manager, Boston Public Library, commented that “Digital Commonwealth enables Massachusetts cultural institutions to develop a virtual presence, enhancing education and research by creating a community of support, offering professional advice, and facilitating collaboration. The Digital Commonwealth portal facilitates worldwide access to the cultural heritage of Massachusetts. Our repository provides an affordable option to organizations that are unable to host one locally.”

The Horticultural Library at Massachusetts Horticultural Society was the first in the United States.  It was established soon after the Society was founded in 1829 to share horticulture knowledge and beauty through its prints, books, extensive collection of seed catalogs, and other rare materials. Its horticultural holdings provide invaluable resources to our members, scholars, historians and general public

Noticing that interest in botanical prints had grown during the intervening 140 years, the Society mounted its first major exhibit in 1968.  It continued in 1969, when a group of lily prints was shown to the North American Lily Society at its annual meeting

Digitization and online access to special collections is an important strategy for any cultural heritage organization as it allows us to reach our users beyond our buildings and business hours. Today, with the help of Digital Commonwealth, Mass Hort’s Library will meet the 21st Century digital needs of students, researchers, authors and the public.

Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s botanical prints are available online at the Digital Commonwealth repository at https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/collections/commonwealth:k930hm897. These images are available for the purposes of viewing and studying and not for commercial use.

Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s Library collection includes over 20,000 volumes at our library in the Education Center of our Elm Bank horticulture center and gardens. Additionally, at a separate archival storage facility, the Society maintains 5,000 rare books, manuscripts, prints, seed catalogs, glass slides, and early transactions of horticultural institutions.

Many of the books transferred to the Chicago Botanical Garden’s Lenhardt Library Rare Book Collection in the early 2000’s by Mass Hort are now available online through the Illinois Digital Archives at http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/ncbglib01; search on “Massachusetts Horticultural Society.”

Digital Commonwealth is a non-profit collaborative organization that provides resources and services to support the creation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage materials held by Massachusetts libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives. Digital Commonwealth currently has over 130 member institutions from across the state.

The Massachusetts Horticultural Society Library at 900 Washington Street, Wellesley, MA is supported by members and donors. Please help us maintain our collection with a tax deductible donation or by calling Elaine Lawrence, Director of Development at 617-933-4945.



Shown here are three works which the Society deemed worthy to feature in its popular exhibitions in Horticultural Hall in 1968 and in the traveling exhibit of 1988, when they were displayed in the gallery concourse of the State Street Bank & Trust Company’s headquarters.

Hort Print1Representing the 18th century is #128, Magdalena Bouchard’s “Melopepo verrucosus”, an engraving of a pumpkin.  It is taken from Volume I of Hortus Romanus, an eight volume set which was published in Rome from 1772 to 1793. The engravings in Volume I were hand painted by Georgio Bonelli, who is generally given the most credit for the work’s success.


Hort Print2The aquatint, “Gooseberries”, #104, was engraved for Pomona Britannica, which was published in 1812.  Depicting the fruit growing around London and in the gardens of Hampton Court, it is considered one of the finest color plate books in existence.



Hort Print3Pierre-Joseph Redoute’, the most celebrated flower painter of his age, hand colored #264, “Rosa Kamtschatica”, the stipple engraving by Chapuy, for the three volume Les Roses, which was published from 1817 to 18


About the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Mass Hort logo newFounded in 1829, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public's enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment.

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