Cullman Library holds approximately 10,000 volumes on the natural
sciences published prior to 1840. Building on the foundation of
James Smithson's mineralogical books and growing with Secretary
Spencer F. Baird's donation of his own working library to the U.S.
National Museum in 1882, the rare-books collection has been augmented
over the years by institutional purchases and exchanges, as well
as by gifts and bequests from other Museum researchers and private
individuals alike. The Library's holdings are cataloged and searchable
in the SIL online catalog SIRIS.
JAMES SMITHSON LIBRARY
Smithson, an 18th-century gentleman of science, included his library
with his donation of $500,000 to found the Smithsonian Institution.
The collection consists of about 110 titles - scientific monographs,
literature, journals, and pamphlets. Inscribed and annotated volumes,
including multiple copies of several of Smithson's own scientific
publications, provide insights into intellectual networks of the
period. Interestingly, many volumes remain in their original paper
wrappers. The library thus represents a rich resource for biographers
and bibliographers alike.
OF MUSEUMS & SCIENTIFIC COLLECTING
predecessors of today's museums were the private "cabinets
of rarities" and "wonder rooms" of the Renaissance.
Natural history collections, and the manuscripts and printed books
describing them, began to be scientifically significant in the 1600s.
The best of them were serious, systematic efforts to investigate
and comprehend the natural world. From the 17th century on, such
efforts were greatly expanded as scientific expeditions sponsored
by governments, commercial interests, and the well-to-do brought
exotic plants and animals back to European collections.
books written by scientific collectors and classifiers from the
16th through the 18th centuries are the core of the Library's resources
on museum history. Holdings include the works of Imperato, Aldrovandi,
the Tradescants, Worm, Valentini, and many other classics in this
field. The Library also holds later publications that catalog the
collections of established museums, carrying their histories forward
into the 19th century and the modern period.
scientific collecting grew into a serious interest in the 1700s,
guides and manuals began to appear to assist collectors in properly
gathering, preparing, preserving, and transporting specimens. The
Library's holdings in this subject reflect the vigorous debate on
preservation methods through the 19th century, and include the Institution's
early series of instruction pamphlets for traveling naturalists.
Building on a base established by Spencer Baird, the Institution's
second Secretary (1878-1887), the bequest of the library of Alexander
Wetmore, sixth Secretary (1945-52), added significantly to our holdings
of collectors', preparators', and taxidermists' manuals.
on voyages and expeditions constitute an important portion of SIL's
rare natural-history collections and contribute to all fields of
research. From early Renaissance travels (Belon, Tournefort, and
others) through the government-sponsored exploration of the American
West in the mid- and late 1800s, such works provided information
on the plants, animals, and peoples of distant and previously little-known
years 1750 to 1900 were a period of great scientific voyages. European
royalty and governments, commercial enterprises such as the East
India Company, and wealthy individuals sponsored expeditions that
carried geographers, naturalists, and artists all over the world.
They brought back countless specimens of plants, animals, and cultural
artifacts. Naturalists in scientific academies, universities, museums,
and botanical gardens studied and published descriptions and illustrations
of the specimens, with special emphasis on those that were new to
designation of the Smithsonian in 1858 as the repository for all
U.S. Governmental science collections brought the great specimen
and artifact collections of the United States Exploring Expedition
of 1838-1842 to the Smithsonian in its early years. From the 1830s
through the 1880s Government-sponsored expeditions were sent out
to map boundaries, to find routes for railroads, and to explore
the geological history and resources of the West. The Institution's
Spencer F. Baird ensured that these expeditions included properly
equipped naturalists and artists.
Library's collection of the official narratives and scientific reports
resulting from the expeditions and the study of their collections
is an important resource for researchers. Our holdings in some cases
include proof copies and volumes interleaved and annotated by the
Institution's scientific staff with museum accession numbers and
other data that connect the published descriptions of newly discovered
species with the actual specimens which are still part of the National
Museum of Natural History.
has been a major research interest at SI since its founding, and
the Institution has played a key role in the development of American
anthropology both in its own right and through the research, collections,
and publications of the Bureau of American Ethnology (affiliated
with the Institution, 1879-1965). Ethnological and linguistic materials
from the BAE library constitute one of the more significant components
of the Cullman Library collections. They reflect the breadth of
the Department's research interests, including cultural and physical
anthropology as well as archeology, with particular strengths in
North American material culture and linguistics, and Central and
South American studies. Donations by Henry Schoolcraft, Otis T.
Mason, Charles Rau, and other researchers in the late 1800s and
early 1900s significantly deepened our resources.
rare-book collections are strong in narratives and scientific treatises
by European voyagers to the Americas and other previously little-known
parts of the world, which include descriptions and illustrations
of the peoples they found living there. Recent donors such as Mrs.
Ruth Lawson Webb and Mrs. Jefferson Patterson have contributed important
items in these areas. The collections are particularly deep in 19th-century
materials on North American cultures, and the recent purchase of
the Wineland collection has added a number of rare works to those
already available to researchers. Our holdings include multiple
editions of many of the seminal texts and illustrated classics of
this period, among them Catlin's numerous accounts of the customs
and manners of Plains tribes, and McKenney & Hall's portraits
of Native American tribal leaders. A complete set of Edward S. Curtis's
North American Indian, donated by Mrs. E.H. Harriman, crowns
on the work at the Smithsonian of James Constance Pilling, the great
bibliographer of Native American languages, we hold a premier collection
of missionary publications, often the first works to transcribe
Native American languages into written form, and other early linguistic
texts. Most recently, SIL purchased over a dozen such texts from
the Sotheby's sale of the library of the eminent linguist Frank
our more striking holdings on the cultures of Central and South
America are a significant number of published facsimiles of ancient
manuscript codices. The magnificent 9-volume folio work on the Antiquities
of Mexico by Edward King, Viscount Kingsborough, and the facsimiles
published in the late 1880s by Joseph Florimond, the Duc de Loubat,
constitute a principal resource for the study of pre-Columbian cultures
of the Americas.
collections also support research in physical anthropology, with
the bequest of Ales Hrdlicka's books an outstanding resource. The
works of earlier contributors in the search to understand human
diversity provide researchers with the historical literature underpinning
their current work.
Cullman Library collections include several hundred rare volumes
in early botany, a field renowned for the beauty of its illustrations.
Within 40 years of the invention of printing (ca. 1450), herbals
with woodcut illustrations were among the most popular printed books.
Both the Burndy Library donation and that of the American Pharmaceutical
Association and Bristol-Myers Squibb augment the Cullman Library
holdings with a selection of these early printed herbals, apothecaries'
manuals, and related works.
usefulness of botanical books in taxonomic and systematic research
depends to a great extent on the accuracy of their plant descriptions
and illustrations. Among the many classic works in our collections,
encyclopedic publications from the 1500s by botanists such as Mattioli
and Fuchs, whose woodcut illustrations were based on first-hand
observation of the plants, constituted a major advance in the accurate
representation of natural objects compared to the static, stereotyped
images handed down through centuries of manuscript copying.
the 1700s and 1800s, as works by Catesby, Sloane, Jacquin and many
others in the collection amply demonstrate, the skills of artists,
engravers, etchers, and hand-colorists produced magnificent illustrations
in support of scientific studies. The Cullman collections naturally
include Linnaeus's classic studies on plant nomenclature and the
many key works which developed and modified botanical classification
systems during this rich period.
gifts from botanists Albert Spear Hitchcock and Agnes Chase (Linnaeus's
works and early works on grasses); from John Donnell Smith (plants
of tropical America); and from science-bookdealer Harry Lubrecht
(again, Linnean works, and early North American botany) are among
the many that have built the Botany collection into an outstanding
Cullman Library collections serve a variety of scientists working
in the mineral sciences, from those who classify minerals to volcanologists
investigating the earth's seismic history. The Institution has been
involved in these fields since its founding and was closely associated
with the various geographical and geological surveys conducted by
the U.S. Government from the mid-1800s to the end of the century.
to the Burndy donation in the Dibner Library, SIL's rare holdings
in the mineral sciences begin with early printed texts of the classical
and medieval natural philosophers - including Aristotle, Theophrastus,
Strabo, Pliny, Avicenna, and Albertus Magnus - who speculated about
the origin and nature of the physical world and the forces that
form and change it. Agricola's pioneering works on mining and metals
in the 16th century are held in several editions.
holdings from the 18th and 19th centuries include the works of Cronstedt,
Werner, Lyell, Murchison, and many others whose publications illuminated
the earth sciences as they began to coalesce into a distinct field.
The study of geological forces and the differentiation of minerals
was well under-way by the mid-19th century, when the term "geology"
assumed its modern meaning, the study of the earth's history. The
historical controversy on how to classify minerals (by external
characteristics or by internal structure) is fully represented in
the natural-history rare collections, including the works of Hauy,
Romé de l'Isle, Brogniart, and their contemporaries.
library of James Smithson, a gentleman-scientist much interested
in minerals and their analysis and classification, is one of our
special collections in this subject. Our holdings in this field
have grown steadily through the years, augmented by the gifts of
George P. Merrill (1931) and the Paneth library on meteorites (1974),
forms a bridge between the sciences of biology and geology, since
the presence and identity of fossils are linked to geological strata
and the processes which form topographical features. Early scholars
struggled to understand the nature of fossils and their position
in the natural order. In organizing fossils in their "mineral"
and "metal" cabinet collections, Renaissance philosophers
like Aldrovandi, Imperato, Mercati, and Gesner, whose works are
held in the SIL rare collections, fought their way through speculation,
religious dogma, and folklore toward systems of scientific classification.
the late 17th century, thanks to the studies of scientists such
as Steno, Scheuchzer, and Hooke, fossils were finally identified
and accepted as traces or remains of animals and plants that have
been preserved in the earth's crust. Paleontological knowledge -
most importantly, the recognition that fossils are associated with
specific geological layers of the earth and that many fossils represent
species now extinct - was thereafter advanced in the classic works
of Cuvier, Smith, Lamarck, and Brogniart. Darwin's theories on evolution
and extinctions and Agassiz's works on fossils, glacial geology,
and related subjects are among the significant 19th-century materials
in the field.
Cullman Library's holdings of works by the authors mentioned here
and by other scientists who made seminal contributions to paleontology,
enhanced through the purchase of the library of F.B.Meek and the
gifts of the libraires of Charles D. Walcott and Remington Kellogg,
support the systematic classification of fossils carried on by SI
Cullman Library zoology collections cover vertebrate and invertebrate
zoology, including the extensive sub-division of entomology, as
well as general zoological treatises. These books, supporting the
collection, study, and classification of animals, start with the
early printed works of the classical and medieval writers - Aristotle,
Pliny, and Isidore of Seville, for example - and the encyclopedic
publications of Gesner, Aldrovandi, and others in the earliest years
of modern science.
works of subsequent explorers, travellers, collectors, and naturalists
from the 16th through the 19th centuries slowly and with much trial
and error built the modern conception of the natural sciences in
which current researchers operate. Among the treasures in the Cullman
is a strong collection of the works of Carl von Linné, known
also as Linnaeus, the 18th-century Swedish naturalist who developed
a system of nomenclature and classification for animals that was
adopted throughout Europe and eventually the world. The natural-history
rare collections hold many editions and translations of his masterwork
Systema naturae [The system of nature], including the notable
10th edition of 1758 which remains the foundation of zoological
taxonomy, and many of his other works.
by great voyages of exploration and scientific expeditions, and
based on Linnaeus's common language for the plants and animals being
"discovered" by Western science, the explosion of zoological
knowledge in the late 1700s and 1800s found expression in seminal
scientific publications that are also beautiful picture books. Spectacular
hand-colored plates of fishes, beetles, corals, birds, and innumerable
other animals illuminate large folio volumes which are still regularly
consulted by Smithsonian researchers for both their illustrations
and their scientific descriptions. Our holdings are especially strong
in illustrated works on birds, shells, and butterflies, among them
the magnificent ornithological works of John Gould and Daniel Giraud
Elliot, many of which volumes came to the Library through the gifts
of distinguished collectors John H. Phipps (1980) and Marcia Brady
Tucker (incorporating the library of Jonathan Dwight, Jr., 1969).
important are technical or obscure works known only to the scientists
in any specific field. An indication of their depth can be gleaned
from the list of researchers at the Institution whose books enrich
the collections in the Cullman Library, by donation, bequest, or
in general zoology, Spencer F. Baird and Edgar A. Mearns; in ornithology,
Charles W. Richmond, Robert Ridgway, Joseph H. Riley, and Alexander
Wetmore; in ichthyology, Theodore Gill and George Brown Goode; in
herpetology, Leonhard Stejneger; in mammalogy, Gerrit S. Miller,
Jr.; in malacology, William Healey Dall and Stillman Berry; and
in entomology, Thomas L. Casey (Coleoptera), William Schaus (Lepidoptera),
C.J. Drake, W.L. McAtee (Hemiptera), J.F. Gates-Clark (Lepidoptera),
J.M. Aldrich (Diptera), and Philip Reese Uhlee (Hemiptera, Heteroptera,
the Libraries' collections, current and future researchers benefit
from the generosity of many past generations of Smithsonian scientists
and private benefactors.
with the transfer of rare books from the Mollusks divisional library
was a 95-box set of hand-written cards listing generic and specific
names given to species of recent and fossil mollusks in the scientific
literature of the 18th and 19th centuries. The card file had been
created by Gérard Paul Deshayes (1795-1875), the noted French
malacologist and successor to Lamarck at the Muséum Nationale
d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, but the project appears to have been
abandoned before his death. William Healey Dall (1845-1927), paleontologist
with the U.S. Geological Survey and longtime honorary curator of
Cenozoic Mollusks at the Smithsonian, purchased the cards from the
executors of Deshayes' estate, with the intention of updating the
file. Although it has not yet been determined by current researchers
to what extent Dall actually updated the index, it remains a useful
reference to the literature of molluscan species descriptions and
contains names that have been overlooked by other nomenclators,
such as Sherborn's Index Animalium.
merger of the Horticulture Branch Library with the Botany Branch
Library in 2003 prompted the transfer of Horticulture's collection
of 19th-century decorated cloth bindings to the Cullman Library.
The colorful, stylistically varied, and appealing covers demonstrate
the decade-by-decade technological advances available to publishers
through the 19th century and form a useful body of materials for
bibliographers and historians.
Brosse. Great Voyages of Discovery: Circumnavigators and Scientists,
1764-1843. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1983.
Blunt & William T. Stearn. The Art of Botanical Illustration.
New edition, revised and expanded: Woodbridge, Suffolk (UK): Antique
Collectors' Club, 1994. First published: London: Collins, 1950.
Peter Dance. The Art of Natural History. New York: Arch Cape
Press, 1990. First published: New York: Overlook Press, 1978.
F. Pasquier & John Farrand, Jr. Masterpieces of Bird Art:
700 Years of Ornithological Illustration. New York, etc.: Abbeville
Press, 1991. (Many of the illustrations were photographed from books
in the SIL natural-history rare-book collections.)
in the Service of Systematics: Papers from the Conference to celebrate
the Centenary of the British Museum (Natural History). London:
Society for the Bibliography of Natural History, 1981.
Ley. The Dawn of Zoology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall,
the History of Books
Chappell. A Short History of the Printed Word. Boston: Nonpareil
Books, 1980. First published: New York: Knopf, 1970.
Eisenstein. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. Cambridge
(UK), etc.: Cambridge University Press, 1979.
Gaskell. A New Introduction to Bibliography. New York &
Oxford (UK): Oxford University Press, 1972.
Johns. The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making.
Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
McMurtrie. The Book: The Story of Printing and Bookmaking.
Third edition, revised: London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University
Press, 1943. First published as The Golden Book, 1927.
Olmert. The Smithsonian Book of Books. Washington, D.C.:
Smithsonian Books, 1992.
the Smithsonian & the National Museum of Natural History &
Conaway. The Smithsonian: 150 Years of Adventure, Discovery,
and Wonder. Washington DC: Smithsonian Books; New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1995.
Yochelson. The National Museum of Natural History: 75 Years in
the Natural History Building. Washington: Smithsonian Institution
Magnificent Foragers: Smithsonian Explorations in the Natural Sciences.
Washington DC: Smithsonian Exposition Books, 1978.
Institution Libraries. Rare Books and Special Collections in
the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Washington: Smithsonian