It takes a gifted artist to become a great teacher and those who dare to teach never cease to learn.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Botanical Illustrations for protection against plant thieves

(The Late Duke Cherry, Pomological Magazine, vol. i. pl. 45; from The Fruits of America, p. 34, 1856)

In the most recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine (July-August, 2011: 76-82) Daniel J. Kelves discusses the very important roll of botanical illustration in the intellectual property questions prior to the modern Copyright Laws.  
The American Pomological Society was established in 1848, one year after Hovey & CO began publishing a series of American Fruit illustrations. This was the time when many new varieties from England and other part of Europe were introduced into the US and a wealth of newly discovered indigenous fruit varieties had emerged in the country. The first volume of The Fruits of America was published in 1852 and Hovey (the publisher) indicated a special national pride in portraying the fruits of his own country.  
Charles M. Hovey owned a 40-acre nursery in Cambridge, MA and was a well known horticulturist. He published fruit illustrations so that growers, sellers and buyers could reliably identify the different variates. William Hooker in London had published the Pomona Lodinensis already in 1818  for the purpose of resolving the nomenclature problems within the nursery business. American pomologists demanded accurate images to document the intellectual property and the Massachusets Horticultural Society and later the Department of Agriculture (1891) engaged a German immigrant Joseph Prestele and his son William to produce illustrations with extreme botanical detail. The illustration program employed around 65 different artists of which at least 22 were woman. A typical color plate was approximately 9" by 12" or the "pocket size 6" by 9" and approximately 7700 watercolors of the nursery specimens were produced. This program ended in the late 1930s and the Plant Patent Act was established 1930. The original Pomological collection is preserved at the National Agricultural Library Special Collections and many of them are digitized.
You can read the Smithsonian magazine article "Cultivating Art" by clicking here. 
(Noblesse peach by William Hooker didn't meet the accuracy requirements of the American pomologists)

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