An Important Book of Botanical Drawings Is Rediscovered in New York After Nearly 200 Years

  • April 29, 2019 13:54

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A page from Specimens of the Plants & Fruits of the Island of Cuba by Mrs. A.K. Wollstonecraft
© Photograph by Robert Clark

A book of exquisitely-rendered scientific drawings depicting Cuban botany was thought to be "lost" until one intrepid researcher rediscovered it in a New York library.

Specimens of the Plants & Fruits of the Island of Cuba by Mrs. A.K. Wollstonecraft was tucked away in Cornell University's library. Simply bound in marbled covers, the book contains 121 illustrated plates showing both common and unusual plants in Cuba in minute detail, along with 220 pages of English-language descriptions that provide great insight.

Historian Emilio Cueto made it his quest to find the 'lost' book, which had once been oft-referenced and also likened to the work of respected naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, and finally discovered that Wollstonecraft's name was misspelled in online catalogs. With the help of University of Florida Library Dean Judith Russell, he eventually found that the book was gifted to Cornell in 1923.

An American who lived in Cuba, Anne Kingsbury Wollstonecraft died in 1828 at age 46, leaving her extraordinary work unfinished.

"Cueto is now working to introduce Wollstonecraft, the sister-in-law of famed women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft, to new generations," notes National Geographic. Thus far, her work has been digitized for public record.

“We have uncovered a new American scientist and artist who has been forgotten by those disciplines,” Cueto says. “Had she lived further, she would have been a major force in illustration.”

Read more at National Geographic


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