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Faxon, Charles Edward, 1846-1918. Papers of Charles Edward Faxon, 1882-1918: A Finding Aid.

Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University


Harvard University
September 1999

© 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Last update 2016 June 14

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.
Call No.: II D CEF
Creator: Faxon, Charles Edward, 1846-1918.
Title: Papers, 1882-1918.
Quantity: 11 Linear Feet (1 archival box, 11 boxed sets of botanical illustrations, and 42 bound volumes)


Access to Finding Aid record in Hollis Classic or Hollis+.

Other descriptions of this material

Current version of this finding aid is available at the Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.

Processing Information:

Processed: September 1999.

Acquisition Information:

The majority of the Charles Edward Faxon archives were acquired during his tenure as a staff member of the Arnold Arboretum.
The HOLLIS # for this collection is 008313284 and the file name is ajp00008.

Access Restrictions:

Researchers seeking to examine archival materials are strongly encouraged to make an appointment. The Director, or an office of origin, may place restrictions on the use of some or all of its records. The extent and length of the restriction will be determined by the Director, office of origin, and the Archivist.

Use Restrictions:

The copyright is held by The President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Arnold Arboretum Archives of Harvard University. The copyright on some materials in the collection may be held by the original author or the author's heirs or assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining written permission from the holder(s) of copyright and the Arnold Arboretum Archives prior to publishing any quotations or images from materials in this collection. Photocopies may be made at the discretion of the Arnold Arboretum Archives staff. Permission to make photocopies does not constitute permission to reproduce or publish materials outside the bounds of the fair use guidelines.

Historical Note

Charles Edward Faxon 1846-1918.
"Mr. Faxon joined the staff of the Arnold Arboretum in May, 1882, to take charge of the library and herbarium, which he managed successfully until his death [February 6, 1918] and which he saw grow from insignificance to importance. For these duties he was equipped with a critical knowledge of the New England flora and a facility for acquiring languages which enabled him to read currently those of nearly every country of Europe. It is, however, as a botanical draftsman that Faxon is most distinguished. During his connection with the Arboretum 1,920 of his drawings were published. With few exceptions they illustrate works on trees which have been prepared here. His drawings unite botanical accuracy with graceful composition, and the skill of his pencil has placed him among the few great masters of his art whose names will live as long as plants are studied.”
From Charles Sprague Sargent Annual Report of the Arnold Arboretum, 1918.
In his review of The Silva of North America,John Muir wrote of Faxon’s work
"At the first glance through the book, everyone must admire the fullness and beauty of the plates. They were made in Paris, from drawings from life, by Faxon, the foremost botanical artist in America‥. these are so tellingly drawn and arranged, [that] any one with the slightest smattering of botany is enabled to identify each tree, even without referring to the text.”
From John Muir,"Sargent’s Silva”Atlantic Monthly Vol. 92, July 1903.
Charles Edward Faxon was born on January 21, 1846, to Elisha Faxon (1801-1855) and Hannah Whiting Faxon (1805- after 1870), in the family’s home on Larmartine Street which was within walking distance of the Arnold Arboretum. The family moved from Abington, Massachusetts, a center of shoe making, to Jamaica Plain before Charles’ birth in 1846 and his father and his two brothers, Edwin and Marcus, were in the shoe leather trade on Purchase Street in the Leather District in Boston.
Faxon was educated at the local public schools and lived and worked in Jamaica Plain his entire life, eventually settling at 15 Park Lane. He graduated from the Lawrence Scientific School in Cambridge as a civil engineer in 1867 and was an Instructor in Botany at the Bussey Institution from 1879-1884. In the spring of 1882, he was asked by Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927), the first Director of the Arboretum, to join his staff. Faxon spent the remainder of his career at the Arboretum as Assistant Director in charge of the library and herbarium until his death from a fall at home in Jamaica Plain on February 6, 1918.
In addition to illustrating the Silva, Faxon prepared drawings for Sargent’s other publications: 644 for the Manual of the Trees of North America (exclusive of Mexico) (1905); 200 for the two volumes of Trees and Shrubs (1902-1913); 17 for the Forest Flora of Japan, and 285 for the journal Garden and Forest (1888-1898). He provided many of the illustrations for Daniel Cady Eaton’s Ferns of North America (1879-1880). Thirteen of Faxon’s drawings were published in the journal Rhodora, and three in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. Other publications include Gray’s Manual of Botany, Gardeners‘ Chronicle, and The Botanical Gazette. Between 1879 and 1913, 1,825 of Faxon’s drawings were published.

Scope and Content

The Edward Faxon papers span the years of his Arboretum career and include photographs, correspondence and original drawings, sketches, and published plates, which make up the majority of the collection. His archive also includes biographical material and obituaries, several black and white photographic portraits, and a small amount of correspondence directed primarily to Arboretum colleagues or in reply to individuals seeking plant material identification. Included in the correspondence is an undated, handwritten list of publications in which his drawings appeared.

Other Descriptive Data

A Faxon archival collection, Faxon, Charles Edward, 1846-1918. Translations of Julius Milde's Botrychiorum monographia: A Guide is held in the Archives of the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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