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Nuttall, Thomas, 1786-1859. Thomas Nuttall collection of illustrations for North American Sylva, 1836-1841, 1928: A Guide.

Archives of the Arnold Arboretum (Cambridge), Botany Libraries, Harvard University
Archives of the Arnold Arboretum (Cambridge), Botany Libraries, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: arn00013
Repository: Archives of the Arnold Arboretum (Cambridge), Botany Libraries, Harvard University
Creator: Nuttall, Thomas , 1786-1859
Title: Thomas Nuttall collection of illustrations for North American Sylva
Date(s): 1836-1841, 1928
Quantity: 0.25 linear feet
Language of materials: English


The provenance of this collection is unknown.

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is available by appointment for research. Researchers must register and provide two forms of valid photo identification. Please contact botref@oeb.harvard.edu for additional information.

Preferred Citation:

Thomas Nuttall collection of illustrations for North American Sylva, Archives of the Arnold Arboretum (Cambridge), Harvard University.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria:
Thomas Nuttall diary

Biographical note

Thomas Nuttall was born on January 5, 1786, in Settle, Yorkshire, England. His interest in natural history began in childhood as he explored the landscapes of the Craven district in North Yorkshire with a young botanist named John Windsor. Nuttall emigrated to Philadelphia in 1808.
In Philadelphia Nuttall came under the patronage of botanist Benjamin Smith Barton. Over the next few years he traveled extensively in North America and collected many specimens previously unknown to the scientific community. In 1822 Nuttall was appointed curator of Harvard's Botanic Garden. He taught botany and cultivated plants at the Botanic Garden until 1833. The following year he joined Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth's second Pacific Northwest expedition.
From 1836 to 1841 Nuttall worked at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. During this time he made contributions to "Flora of North America" by John Torrey and Asa Gray. He also wrote supplemental text and commissioned additional plates for a new edition of François André Michaux's "North American Sylva" published in 1852-1853.
In 1842 Nuttall's uncle, Jonas Nuttall, bequeathed to him an estate near Liverpool. The terms of the inheritance required Nuttall to reside at the estate, called Nutgrove, for nine months each year. With the exception of a short trip to the United States in the winter of 1847-1848, Nuttall spent the rest of his life in England where he dedicated much of his time to horticulture. He died at his estate on September 10, 1859.
Durand E. 1860. Biographical notice of the late Thomas Nuttall. Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc. 7(63):297-315.
Graustein JE. 1967. Thomas Nuttall, naturalist: Explorations in America, 1808-1841. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.
Powers WH. 1925. Some facts in the life of Thomas Nuttall. Science. 62(1609):389-391.

Scope and content

Creation of the additional plates for Nuttall's edition of "North American Sylva" was overseen by Nuttall. The plates were drawn by several artists, including William Gambel, a naturalist who traveled with and collected for Nuttall between 1838 and 1842. The illustrations were completed by J.B. Butler, J.T. French, E.D. Long, G. West, J. Worley and J. Magee. The published versions vary from the original illustrations in color and technique by artist.
This collection contains one specimen and 58 original illustrations, with numbers ranging from 1-108. Notes on each illustration indicate how they should be completed or improved, primarily through suggestions regarding addition or subtraction of color. Typed notes signed "EDB" (Elizabeth Dean Bennett) comparing the originals to corresponding published plates are included with several illustrations.

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