Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium

Hello dearest natural beauties wherever you are! I recently found a beautiful article on the American poet Emily Dickinson. The article talks about her love of flowers and her craft of growing, collecting, pressing and recording them in books. Her ‘herbarium” is a 60 page collection of around 400 flowers from the Amherst region in Massachusetts. The original article from Maria Popova for  brainpickings.org can be found here.

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Page from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium (Houghton Library, Harvard University)

“Dickinson started studying botany at the age of nine and assisting her mother at the garden at twelve, but it wasn’t until she began attending Mount Holyoke in her late teens — around the time the only authenticated daguerrotype of her was taken — that she began approaching her botanical zeal with scientific rigor.”

brainpickings.org “Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium” by Maria popova

Emily Dickinson, daguerreotype, ca. 1847. (Amherst College Archives & Special Collections, gift of Millicent Todd Bingham, 1956)

Page from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium (Houghton Library, Harvard University)
First page of Emily Dickinson’s herbarium (Houghton Library, Harvard University)

The article also quotes another author, Judith Farr, in her book The Gardens of Emily Dickinson . Farr makes an important note about the first page of Dickinson’s herbarium:

On the very first page, the first flower pressed by the girl Emily, was the Jasminum or jasmine, the tropical flower that would come to mean passion to her as a woman. This “belle of Amherst,” … was profoundly attracted to the foreign and especially to the semitropical or tropical climes that she read about in Harper’s and the Atlantic Monthly-Santo Domingo, Brazil, Potosi, Zanzibar, Italy… Domesticating the jasmine in the cold climate of New England, writing sensuous lyrics about forbidden love in spare meters, Dickinson followed a paradoxical pattern that related poet to gardener in one adventurous pursuit. Just as her fondness for buttercups, clover, anemones, and gentians spoke of an attraction to the simple and commonplace, her taste for strange exotic blooms is that of one drawn to the unknown, the uncommon, the aesthetically venturesome.

Judith Farr “The Gardens of Emily Dickinson”
Page from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium (Houghton Library, Harvard University)

The page below collects 8 different types of violets – how divine!

Violet varieties from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium (Houghton Library, Harvard University)
Page from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium (Houghton Library, Harvard University)

The 60 page herbarium book can be viewed here. 

I really hope you enjoy it!