Rare Botany Books and Specimens on Exhibit

Courtesy of Bodleian Libraries

The Night-Blooming Cereus [cactus] from Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora.

Earlier this month, with spring in the air, the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University debuted its new exhibition, Roots to Seeds. Marking the 400th anniversary of the Oxford Botanic Garden, the exhibition digs into the history of botany in Oxford and beyond through the books, manuscripts, and specimens that dispersed knowledge about the plant sciences to all corners of the world.

“Over 300 rare books and specimens have been drawn from the collections of the Sherardian Library and Oxford University Herbaria, the oldest scientific collection of plant specimens in the United Kingdom,” said Druce Curator of Oxford University Herbaria, Professor Stephen A. Harris. “Books, manuscripts, botanical illustrations, dried specimens and scientific models, many of which have never been on public display before, are featured in the exhibition.”

Courtesy of Bodleian Libraries

"Bobart the Elder Herbarium," the first catalogue of dried plants in the Oxford Botanic Garden and the foundation of the university’s botanical collections.

From a twelfth-century illustration of the Mandrake to the drawings of Robert Thornton, best known for his Temple of Flora (1807), the exhibition revels in the beauty of botany while revealing how the study of plants will shape the future.

Richard Ovenden OBE, Bodley’s Librarian at the Bodleian Libraries, commented, “Roots to Seeds is a bold and ambitious exhibition that reflects on our history in this field and looks to our future. This exhibition weaves together compelling stories, objects and images over 400 years. We want people to see beyond the usual when it comes to plants and get a better understanding of the plants that surround them and why they are so vital to all life on Earth.”

Roots to Seeds remains on view at the Weston Library through October 24, 2021.