THE SEARCH FOR A VALUABLE UNPUBLISHED WORK OF AMERICAN POMOLOGY

From SCIENCE

NEW SERIES. VOLUME XLIV JULY-DECEMBER, 1916 NEW YORK

A VALUABLE UNPUBLISHED WORK ON POMOLOGY

Most horticulturists are doubtless familiar with “A View of the Cultivation of Fruit Trees of America,” published in 1817 by “William Coxe, of Burlington, N. J., who has been called “The Father of American Pomology,” but probably few are aware of the existence of an unpublished book of colored drawings of the fruits that were illustrated in this work by wood cuts. On pages 225-226 of the Country Gentleman, of Albany, ~N. Y., for April 2, 1857, there was published by E[dmund] L[aw] R[ogers], Baltimore, Md., an account of the activities of Mr. Coxe, in which it is stated that he had intended publishing a second edition of the work, accompanied by colored engravings for which natural-size water-color drawings had been prepared by his daughters. The publication of this second edition was prevented by Mr. Coxe’s death in 1831. About twenty years ago this article came to the attention of Mr. William A. Taylor, then assistant pomologist of the TJ. S. Department of Agriculture, and a number of letters were written in an effort to locate the colored drawings, but without success. The matter was then dropped until the spring of 1915 when, in a conversation regarding some old horticultural catalogs, Mr. Taylor related these facts to the writer who suggested that it might still be possible to locate the unpublished colored plates through methods used by genealogical research workers.

The search was begun by looking up at the Library of Congress historical and genealogical works which might give information regarding the descendants of William Coxe, with the result that a list of his children was obtained, with some of their marriages. From this it was learned that Philadelphia and vicinity was at present the most likely locality to search for his descendants. Addresses were obtained of several of the Coxe family in that vicinity and a form letter sent to all of them giving the object of the inquiry, with the result that a chart of this branch of the family, only recently published, was secured by the writer. This gave the names of all descendants to date, but without addresses, although the places of births were usually given. With this clue several city and tele- phone directories were consulted and addresses of most of the descendants obtained. About twenty-five copies of the form letter were then sent to these addresses with the almost immediate result of six replies giving the address of the probable possessor of the work, followed the next day by a letter from one of the twenty- five addressed acknowledging the possession of the work.

It is with great pleasure that announcement is made of the donation of the unpublished colored drawings of fruits to the Library of the U. S. Department of Agriculture by the grandchildren of Mrs. Elizabeth (Coxe) McMurtrie, a daughter of William Coxe, by whom most of the paintings were made. The drawings are bound and in an excellent state of preservation. The character of the work shows a high degree of skill on the part of the artist in depicting fruits; and the positive identification of all the earlier descriptions and illustrations, some of which have long been in doubt, will now be possible. The work has been placed in a fireproof building and it is expected that the additional safeguard of a fireproof safe for this and similar books will be provided at an early date. The drawings are accompanied by the bound manuscript upon which the published work was based, to which have been added numerous notes intended for a second edition.

Many of the notes bear dates ranging from 1810 to 1828 and it probable that the water-color work was largely done in the early part of this period, for several varieties are illustrated which according to the manuscript did not live long, or were destroyed as being of little value or particularly subject to disease.

P. L. RlCKER Bureau of Plant Industry

July 14, 1916

link: http://archive.org/stream/science441916mich/science441916mich_djvu.txt

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