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From the Cataloger’s Desk: Celebrating the Beauty of Nature

May 4, 2017

Several pocket guides came my way recently, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. As we enjoy the spring seasonand eagerly await summer, we are surrounded by the beauty of nature. New growth and new life abound, so if you are interested in learning more about your natural environment, the following books are for you!

Flower Guide: Wild Flowers East of the Rockies (1916), by Chester A. Reed, identifies specimens spanning from the Atlantic Seaboard west to the Mississippi Valley. It begins with the basics, such as parts of flowers and kinds of leaves, then delves into individual species grouped by family and genus. Keys to flowers by color, as well as an index, appear at the end. There are also three hundred and twenty illustrations painted by the author, “directly from living plants, and the balance, with few exceptions, from herbarium specimens.”

Tree Guide: Trees East of the Rockies (1916), by Julia Ellen Rogers, follows a somewhat similar format. Trees common to the eastern half of the country are presented according to family, genus and species. Keys are included throughout, “to aid the beginner, and to show how few are the traits to learn, when he sets out to make the acquaintance of the tree families.” Most of the illustrations are black and white and show identifying details such as leaves, nuts and bark. There is, however, a small section of color illustrations, as well as an index.

Finally, The Butterfly Guide: a Pocket Manual for the Ready Identification of the Commoner Species Found in the United States and Canada (1916), by W.J. Holland, includes “two hundred and fifty-five species and varieties … depicted in their natural colors.” It starts with general information, such as butterfly anatomy, life cycle and collecting. Descriptions follow and are organized by family, genus and species. There are two indices: one for English or common terms, the other for Latin or scientific names.

Although these pocket guides were published one hundred years ago, the information is sound. All three are excellent reference sources for amateurs and experts alike. The diagrams, keys and indices are very helpful, and the illustrations are quite beautiful. If you are curious about some of the flowers, trees and butterflies you encounter this spring and summer, come to the library and take a look!The catalog records for these items can be found here, here, and here.

Lindsay Borman is the cataloger of Printed Collections at the Indiana Historical Society. Her claim to fame: She can name all of the U.S. presidents ... in order!

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