NYBG’s Flora Illustrata Wins Two Prestigious Awards

Flora Illustrata: Great works from the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden, edited by Susan M. Fraser and Vanessa Bezemer Sellers and published by The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) – a founding BHL Member – and Yale University Press, has been honored with two prestigious awards: the 2015 American Horticultural Society Book Award and the CBHL 2015 Annual Literature Award.

On 4 June, 2015, the American Horticultural Society named Flora Illustrata as one of its 2015 AHS Book Award Winners during the Great American Gardeners Awards Ceremony and Banquet in Alexandria, Virginia. The AHS Book Award, established in 1997, honors outstanding garden-related books published in North America. Candidates are judged on writing style, authority, originality, accuracy, and design quality. According to Rita Hassert, a botanical librarian at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, and one of the 2015 AHS Book Award Committee Members, “[Flora Illustrata] adeptly captures horticultural history through thoughtful, easy-to-understand discussions of the botanical and cultural significance of each piece.”

On 18 June, 2015, the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries, Inc. (CBHL) presented Flora Illustrata with the 2015 Annual Literature Award as part of the Council’s 47th Annual Meeting in Decorah, Iowa. The award, in its sixteenth year, recognizes significant contributions to the literature of botany and horticulture. According to the CBHL press release about the 2015 award, “This work celebrates one of the nation’s most important botanical literature collections and was edited by a long time CBHL member Susan Fraser,” Director of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.

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Flora Illustrata celebrates key works from the collections of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden. The Library is one of the most comprehensive resources about plants anywhere in the world, holding over one million cataloged items on horticulture, floriculture, botanical illustration, garden design and history, the exploration of the New World, and land management. Through a series of essays, each written by a leading authority, and a plethora of stunning illustrations, Flora Illustrata highlights selections spanning more than eight centuries, such as rare manuscripts and iconic books including Renaissance herbals, precious botanical drawings, explorers’ notebooks, and more, and presents the library’s collection within the context of larger cultural and historical events throughout the ages.

“The contributors and editors not only describe the contents within the books but their importance as physical objects, noting the significance of the paper used, typefaces and bindings,” states the CBHL 2015 Annual Literature Award press release. “The essays tell the stories of how some books came to be written, illustrated, and their social, cultural and scientific significance when first published as well as their present day influence and importance. Anyone who loves history, art, plants and gardens will enjoy this book.”

Key themes throughout the book include the roles played by preeminent explorers, scientists, publishers, artists, and printmakers across the centuries, the development of bookmaking and graphic arts, and the scientific progress that led to improved identification and representation of plants. The first and final chapters also detail the history, development, and purpose of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.

“The LuEsther T. Metz Library is unquestionably one of the great treasures of the world,” praised Thomas E. Lovejoy, Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and University Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy department at George Mason University. “Flora Illustrata reveals with stunning scholarship the deeply intertwined history of plants, science, and humanity. Rich and fascinating beyond imagination and now accessible to anyone. A triumph of a book.”

The LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden is one of the founding institutions of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Susan M. Fraser, co-editor of Flora Illustrata and Director of the Mertz Library, is the NYBG representative to BHL and former BHL Executive Committee Secretary. NYBG has contributed over 3.8 million pages to BHL to date. Explore NYBG’s collection in BHL today.

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Grace Costantino served as the Outreach and Communication Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014 to 2021. In this capacity, she developed and managed BHL's communication strategy, oversaw social media initiatives, and engaged with the public to excite audiences about the wealth of biodiversity heritage available in BHL. Prior to her role as Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace served as the Digital Collections Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries and as the Program Manager for BHL.