In 1805, the “Father of North American mycology”, Lewis David von Schweinitz (1780-1834), published an account of the fungi in Niesky, Germany with his friend and mentor, Johannes Baptista von Albertini (1769-1831). Documenting over 1,000 species, including 100 published as new-to-science, Conspectus fungorum in Lusatiae Superioris agro Niskiensi crescentium, e methodo Persooniana is still referenced to this day as a classic mycological text and ecological record.
The Conspectus is illustrated with 12 hand-colored plates based on drawings by Schweinitz, each featuring 6-10 figures of new species described. Whenever possible, Schweinitz based his drawings on fresh specimens, but when this was not an option, he referred to fungarium specimens or to a collection of earlier watercolors he’d created of representative specimens.
Today, these watercolor volumes are dispersed between several American institutions and offer a wealth of insight into the history and development of the Conspectus. The earliest volume of original watercolors related to the Conspectus is the Icones Fungorum Niskiensium, created (ca.) 1798-1802 and held in the archives of the Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany at Harvard University. This volume served Schweinitz as a sketchbook of sorts, which he used to inform the final paintings in the Conspectus itself.