This is a page from Asa Gray's botany textbook published in 1857, First Lessons in Botany and Vegetable Physiology, illustrated by over 360 wood engravings from original drawings by Isaac Sprague. I found this dried flower pressed between the pages. Could it be as old as the book? This sample was pressed between the pages devoted to the snapdragon family. It seems to be a variety of the wildflower beardstongue.
This book belonged to the Mt. Allison Ladies College Library, 1854-1958 and was sitting in the stacks of the Mount Allison University library when I found it. I had read about Asa Gray in Barbara Novak's book, Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting 1825-75. He is considered by many to be the most important American botanist of the nineteenth century.
The illustrations in First Lessons have helped me interpret my somewhat fuzzy photographs of fireweed in Banff National Park. When I took the pictures, I was hiking with a group that was moving quickly. I had no idea at the time that I would be using the photos several years later as a reference for a large-scale drawing.
Below is a very dark photo of my initial drawing in graphite on 55½ x 36 inch watercolor paper. The drawing is done with an HB pencil on bright white paper. This stage of the work has taken me about 18 hours of free-hand drawing. Scroll down for a detailed photo. I will try re-setting the white balance in my camera and perhaps I will have a better result with the next photograph.
|55½ 36 inches, graphite on watercolor paper, in progress|
|Detail of the above work|