Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lenhardt Library Receives over $200,000 to Digitize Language of Flower Books for BHL

The Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden has received over $200,000 from a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant awarded to the Chicago Horticultural Society for the conservation and digitization of 62 rare and unique “language of flower” books published in the 19th century. The Lenhardt Library has been a BHL Affiliate since 2014.

Over the next three years, the volumes will be conserved and digitized by expert staff at the Northeast Document Conservation Center.  The charming books with colorful illustrations of flowers, bouquets, and floral poetry will be subsequently uploaded to the Biodiversity Heritage Library where they will be freely available to a global audience for research and enjoyment.

Want to get a sneak peek of some of the books that will be digitized as part of this grant? Explore a selection of titles below.

book with light binding and imprint of woman on cover

Hooper, Lucy. The lady’s book of flowers and poetry; to which are added, a botanical introduction, a complete floral dictionary, and a chapter on plants in rooms. New York: J.C. Riker, 1845. To be digitized from the collection of the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden and added to the Biodiversity Heritage Library as part of a recent NEH grant. Image credit: Leora Siegel.

illustration with a portrait of a woman surrounded by flowers

Hooper, Lucy. The lady’s book of flowers and poetry; to which are added, a botanical introduction, a complete floral dictionary, and a chapter on plants in rooms. New York: J.C. Riker, 1845. To be digitized from the collection of the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden and added to the Biodiversity Heritage Library as part of a recent NEH grant. Image credit: Leora Siegel.

Hooper, Lucy. The lady’s book of flowers and poetry; to which are added, a botanical introduction, a complete floral dictionary, and a chapter on plants in rooms.
New York: J.C. Riker, 1845.

Lucy Hooper (1816-1841), an American poet, combines botany and poetry in this work. She describes specific flowers through poetry and presents scientific concepts, organizing flowers by species, and includes a practical guide to growing houseplants and a “Botanical Introduction” based on Linnaean taxonomy.

book with red binding and imprint of gold flowers

Osgood, Frances Sargent, editor. The floral offering, a token of friendship. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1847. To be digitized from the collection of the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden and added to the Biodiversity Heritage Library as part of a recent NEH grant. Image credit: Leora Siegel.

Osgood, Frances Sargent, editor. The floral offering, a token of friendship.
Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1847.

Frances Sargent Osgood (1811-1850), author of The Floral Offering, was an influential American female writer and prolific contributor to the leading periodicals of the day, a published poet, and author of Puss in Boots.

a book with a blue, white, and red cover that reads "the floral fortune teller"

Edgarton, Sarah Carter. The floral fortune-teller: a game for the season of flowers. Boston: A. Tompkins, 1847. To be digitized from the collection of the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden and added to the Biodiversity Heritage Library as part of a recent NEH grant. Image credit: Leora Siegel.

Edgarton, Sarah Carter. The floral fortune-teller: a game for the season of flowers.
Boston: A. Tompkins, 1847.

One of the earliest complete American floral fortune telling books, Floral Fortune-teller combines poetry and flowers of different colors to answer questions. Popular literature such as this offered women a publishing outlet during a time of a male dominated printing industry.

Congratulations to the Lenhardt Library on this amazing news, and we can’t wait to see the books in BHL.

See the awards press release from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this email, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Written by

Leora Siegel is the Senior Director of the Lenhardt Library, one of the treasures of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Open to the public 7-days a week, its 125,000-volume collection encompasses resources on gardening, botany, plant conservation, and landscape design, in formats from rare books to e-books. Library initiatives focus on public engagement, collections, and collaborations.