Luxuriant Nature Smiling Round...
Botanicals - Ornithology


The books in this exhibition came to Bryn Mawr in 1971 as part of a bequest from Ethelinda Schaefer Castle, a 1908 graduate and an active member of the Friends of the Bryn Mawr College Library for many years. Mrs. Castle was one of the great women book collectors of the twentieth century. Her gift to Bryn Mawr totaled nearly 1500 volumes, about one-third of her entire collection, and included such jewels as three medieval illuminated manuscripts, more than a dozen fifteenth century printed books, and first editions of the works of Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, William Blake, Joseph Conrad and many other British writers.

The richest part of the Castle Collection, though, consists of more than 200 illustrated natural history books, predominately in ornithology and botany, and including many of the landmark works in the field. These volumes are among the most beautiful books ever printed and constitute some of the most memorable work by Crispijn van de Passe, Pierre Joseph Redouté, Edward Lear, Titian Peale, and many other artists. At the same time, these are not simply works of art. Through these books, we can mark advances in the rise of western science, see the cultural impact of European overseas expansion and exploration, and gain insights into the changing tastes and capabilities of the increasingly prosperous western world.

This exhibition is being presented in conjunction with a project funded by the Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation to catalogue all of the Castle Collection books and to create an image database of representative illustrations from the books.

Luxuriant Nature Smiling Round was curated by Jennifer Barr, Rima Girnius, and Eric Pumroy. The exhibition first appeared in the Rare Book Room of Canaday Library, Bryn Mawr College, from February through May, 2006. Website version of the exhibition was designed by Amanda Young in August 2006.

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