Rhiannon Lawrence-Francis, our Collections and Engagement Manager (Rare Books and Maps) shares some of the items that will eventually go on display at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery.

May is usually a very busy month at the Treasures Gallery as it’s changeover time, when rare books and manuscripts come out of our exhibition cases to make way for new objects. Things are different this year of course – the Gallery is closed, prompting us to share our collections with our audiences in different ways.

Inspired by this week’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show here are some of our favourite books relating to gardening, a preoccupation of many of us during the current lockdown. We hope that you will come and see these, and many other treasures, when we open our doors again.

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Detail from ‘Kreüter Buch’ by Hieronymus Bock. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Hieronymus Bock (c.1498-1554) was a German priest, physician and botanist who helped develop the modern scientific approach to botany based on observation and description from nature. Our 1546 edition of his major work includes careful illustrations of approximately 700 plants, classified on the basis of structural similarity.

Bock’s ground-breaking work, the Kreüter Buch, (literally “Book of herbs”) was first published in 1539. His stated objectives were to describe German plants, including their names, characteristics, and medical uses. The 1546 edition was illustrated by the artist David Kandel (1520-1592).

Gervase Markham (c.1568-1637) was a prolific English writer on agriculture, farming and cookery in the first half of the seventeenth century. This book contains his English translation of Charles Estienne and Jean Liebault’s important late sixteenth-century French work on husbandry,  gardening and country living.

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‘Maison rustique, or, the countrey farme’ edited by Gervase Markham. Image credit Leeds University Library.

The book tells you all you need to know about running a farm and covers a variety of subjects including the planting and care of trees, the keeping of bees, and the making of wine and beer as well as hunting and hawking. There are also gorgeous designs for knot gardens and a maze. Someone has added a smiling face at the centre of this drawing . . .

A book of fruits and flowers is a compilation of recipes for cooking, preserves and medicines, with copperplate engravings added – not always very accurately – in the spaces left for them.

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‘Book of fruits and flowers’, Anonymous. Image credit Leeds University Library.

The full title of the book describes its contents, including how to make “Pyes, Biscat, Maid Dishes, Marchpanes, Leeches, and Snow, Craknels, Caudels, Cakes, Broths, Fritter-stuffe, Puddings, Tarts, Syrupes, and Sallets”. There are also medicinal recipes “to dissolve the Stone, killing the Ring-worme, Emroids, and Dropsie, Paine in the Ears and Teeth, Deafnesse”.

Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840) was a painter and botanist from Belgium. He is best known for his watercolours of roses, lilies and other flowers at Château de Malmaison, the residence of Empress Joséphine, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Redouté has been called the greatest ever botanical illustrator. See our featured image at the top of this post.

The Empress had a passion for flowers and was in constant contact with the leading European rose-growers. Her rose gardens contained examples of almost every known species and in 1800 she commissioned Redouté to paint them.

We will put these and many more wonderful objects on show in the Treasures Gallery as soon as we can. Meanwhile, keep an eye on our social media sites for more stories from the collections.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to my colleague and friend Richard High, who leaves us at the end of this month after 17 years in Special Collections. Richard was an integral part of the team who helped to launch the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery in 2016 and he has worked on every exhibition since. We will miss his collections knowledge and enthusiasm for storytelling more than I can say.

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Richard with a VERY big pattern book. Image credit Leeds University Library.