RICHARDSON, Texas (Aug. 9, 2004) — The Eugene C. McDermott Library at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) will celebrate the acquisition of its one-millionth volume, a landmark 18th Century botanical set, in a ceremony at 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 10.
The program to celebrate the one-millionth volume will be held in the McDermott Library Auditorium (MC 2.410) on the UTD campus. The volume will be unveiled at a reception immediately following in the McDermott Suite on the fourth floor. The event is free and open to the public.
The Louise B. Belsterling Foundation of Dallas provided the means to acquire the one-millionth volume – Flora Londinenis, a landmark in English botany by William Curtis. The Belsterling Collection of rare botanical and horticulture books is located in the library’s Special Collections Department and supported by the foundation.
“A special occasion calls for a remarkable book,” said Dr. Larry D. Sall, director of UTD Libraries. “The Belsterling Foundation has been exceptional in supporting the McDermott Library’s Special Collections Department and its Belsterling Collection. It has our profound gratitude for this wonderful gift on this great occasion.”
The program will feature a presentation by Dr. Ellen D. Safley, associate director for Public Services and Collections, about the significance of Curtis and Flora Londinensis. In addition, Sall will recognize members of the Belsterling Foundation and special guests.
The McDermott Library’s copy of Flora Londinensis is an exceptionally clean first edition that is virtually free from ink and color transfers. Printed in 1777, it features more than 400 hand-colored engraved plates. No more than 300 were produced, and the McDermott volume is one of the few surviving complete copies.
Sall said the millionth volume is a significant milestone for the university and its libraries. “Since its inception in 1969, UTD never has had a traditional academic library,” he said. “Our early years were defined by the strict needs of our graduate research scientists. We did not pursue the broad offering of books normally associated with university libraries.
“As we phased in the undergraduate programs, the library expanded its profile to cover new disciplines while still providing major support for our scientific and technical curriculum.”
Flora Londinensis joins other notable jewels in the Belsterling Collection. Just a few of these are Herbarium Latinum (1499), Genera Plantarum (1742) by Linnaeus, Botanicon (1540), Nievve Herball (1578), Kreuterbuch (1593), Compendium de Plantis Omnibus (1571), Description Des Plantes Nouvelles (1800) and The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes (1633).
About Flora Londinensis
One of the great names in botany, William Curtis (1746-99), was a pharmacist, botanist and entomologist. He set up a botanical garden of British plants at Bermondsey in 1771. Two years later, he was appointed demonstrator of plants at the Chelsea Physic Garden.
Although the stated purpose of the Flora Londinensis is to depict plants growing within a 10-mile radius of London, the work is much more comprehensive in scope than its title suggests, for it embraces most of the English flora. As a result, it should be regarded as the first color-plate national flora. It is an impressive work with handsome engraved illustrations and wonderfully rich coloring. It contains some of James Sowerby’s first botanical illustrations as well as the work of William Kilburn, Sydenham Edwards, Francis Sansom and perhaps other unsigned illustrators. By the 1790’s, Sowerby was considered to be the finest botanical artist in England.
Flora Londinensis was not a financial success and was cut short for lack of subscriptions. No more than 300 of any single signature are believed to have been printed. The work, nonetheless, was appreciated by Curtis’ fellow naturalists. Because the book normally was put under considerable pressure during binding, many copies show color and ink transfers. The McDermott Library edition was not pressed and is virtually free of transfers.
The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor®, enrolls about 14,000 students. The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university’s Web site at www.utdallas.edu.