Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/exhibitions/1159161455/

Botanical Lessons

Botanical Lessons explores the 19th-century intersection of nature and design in the Smithsonian collections through models on loan from the National Museum of American History and illustrated books and periodicals from the holdings of Smithsonian Libraries. These thirteen colorful models, made by the leading German firm R. Brendel & Co., were popular teaching aids for students around the world during a period marked by a growing interest in science and education. Encyclopedias and periodicals were important sources of botanical research for an increasing number of scientists, professional gardeners, and enthusiasts. These models and illustrations provided up-close views of the natural world at a time when microscopes and image projection were not widely available. Through these design objects and visual aids, new ways of understanding nature’s intricate structures and beauty were possible with the naked eye.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793578/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

Ricinus communis, popularly known as castor bean or castor-oil plant, is indigenous to Eastern Africa. The plant’s oil has been applied to many pharmaceutical and industrial uses throughout history, from fueling lamps in ancient Egypt to lubricating airplanes’ rotary engines flown by the Allies during World War I.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793579/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • plant

Commonly known as alder buckthorn, glossy buckthorn, or breaking buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula is native to Europe, and has been primarily cultivated for ornamental purposes. The plant’s bark has also been used as charcoal for drawing and as a laxative since the Middle Ages, while extractions from the bark, leaves, and fruits can be processed to make dyes in various colors.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793580/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

The Ficus carica, or fig tree, is native to the Mediterranean and Central Asian regions, and it was one of the first plants cultivated by humankind, growing up to 30 feet. A staple in the diet of ancient Greeks and Romans, the fruit is now consumed around the world either raw, dried, or as a jam.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793581/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

Native to Europe and Western Asia, the Daphne mezereum is known as February Daphne because of its late winter blooms. All parts of the plant are highly toxic to humans, especially if ingested. The sap can also cause skin irritation, but was used in cosmetics until it was discovered that the rosy cheeks resulting from its application were actually blood vessel damage.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793582/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

The Aesculus hippocastanum, or horse chestnut, is native to the Balkan region. The wood has little value as timber, but it is suitable for carving. Unlike true chestnuts, this seed is not fit for human consumption because it contains high doses of aesculin, which can be fatal if ingested raw.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793583/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

The European elderberry, as the Sambucus nigra is popularly called, has been known for centuries for its medicinal properties and culinary applications, through the use of the bark, leaves, flowers, and fruit. The mature wood can be carved, while the hollow young stems are suitable to fabricate musical instruments.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793584/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

The Arum maculatum is known by a wide variety of names, most commonly lords-and-ladies, cuckoopint, and starchwort. The latter was likely assigned because starch can be extracted from the plant’s roots to stiffen fabrics. If eaten raw, all elements of starchwort cause severe bodily irritation, but some elements are safe for consumption if properly prepared.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793585/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

The Juglans regia is native to the Balkans, but the tree is known as Persian or English walnut. The seeds have been used for cooking since antiquity and are appreciated for their taste and nutritional values. Designers have coveted the wood for furniture and architectural elements for centuries.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793586/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

Sarracenia purpurea is a carnivorous pitcher plant indigenous to North America, which feeds mainly on insects, beetles, and spiders. Native Americans have used the plant for various medicinal purposes, including as a diuretic and assisting in childbirth. The genus Sarracenia was named by Carl Linnaeus after Michel Sarrazin, a French physician in Canada who worked for the court of Louis XIV of France and sent specimens of the plant to Europe.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793587/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793588/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

The Menyanthes trifoliate, commonly known as buckbean, typically grows in shallow water and is native to Europe and Asia. The root is edible and has been used to make “famine bread,” a substitute for the food when grains are unavailable that has been described as nutritious but bitter. Produced in Scandinavia since the 15th century, this process of drying and grinding the rootstocks was described by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1832.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793589/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

Rosa canina, also known as dog rose, is a thorny climbing plant native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia, characterized by pink or white flowers. Traditionally, syrups were made using the rose hips due to their high concentration in vitamin C. The hairs inside the hips, known to cause irritation, have been an ingredient in itching powder.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793590/

  • wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • botanical
  • model
  • education
  • plant

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793596/

  • printed paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries
  • science
  • education
  • schematic

The author of this publication, François-Pierre Chaumeton, was a French physician and pharmacist who worked as a military doctor at the turn of the 19th century. After his retirement, Chaumeton started writing for medical publications, which led to Flore Médicale, a book that presents a wide range of botanical species for pharmaceutical use. The title however goes beyond its initial scope, and includes flowers and fruits like this banana.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793598/

  • printed paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries
  • botanical
  • science
  • education
  • encyclopedic

This plate comes from an illustrated encyclopedia organized by German publisher and author Johann Georg Heck, in his 6-volume effort to comprise and organize knowledge of science, literature, and art in an accessible format. Figure 4 here depicts a walnut tree and figure 7 presents a variation of buckthorn, both of which are represented in corresponding botanical models on view in the central case nearby.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793600/

  • printed paper
  • botanical
  • science
  • education
  • observation

Sir Joseph Paxton may be more well known today as the designer of the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition building in London, but his main occupation at that time was as Head Gardener of Chatsworth House, home to the Dukes of Devonshire since 1549. Paxton was also interested in publishing and landscape and greenhouse design. These passions combined in Paxton’s Magazine of Botany, which was the third title he developed, running from 1834 to 1849. The pages selected here focus on the lavish illustrations that accompanied the detailed texts, which shared the newest developments in botany for amateur and professional gardeners alike.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793707/

  • printed paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries
  • botanical
  • science
  • education
  • observation

Sir Joseph Paxton may be more well known today as the designer of the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition building in London, but his main occupation at that time was as Head Gardener of Chatsworth House, home to the Dukes of Devonshire since 1549. Paxton was also interested in publishing and landscape and greenhouse design. These passions combined in Paxton’s Magazine of Botany, which was the third title he developed, running from 1834 to 1849. The pages selected here focus on the lavish illustrations that accompanied the detailed texts, which shared the newest developments in botany for amateur and professional gardeners alike.

Botanical Lessons

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318793709/

  • printed paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries
  • science
  • education
  • observation

Sir Joseph Paxton may be more well known today as the designer of the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition building in London, but his main occupation at that time was as Head Gardener of Chatsworth House, home to the Dukes of Devonshire since 1549. Paxton was also interested in publishing and landscape and greenhouse design. These passions combined in Paxton’s Magazine of Botany, which was the third title he developed, running from 1834 to 1849. The pages selected here focus on the lavish illustrations that accompanied the detailed texts, which shared the newest developments in botany for amateur and professional gardeners alike.