Denver Botanic Gardens

Helen Fowler Library


The largest horticultural library in the Rocky Mountain region, the Helen Fowler Library houses diverse collections that include upwards of twenty-five thousand book titles and two hundred current serials on subjects ranging from gardening, horticulture, botany, Colorado native plant life, landscaping, agriculture, world flora, botanical art and illustration, ethnobotany, plant pests and diseases, plant lore, and more. 

Special holdings consist of rare books, an extensive collection of vintage seed catalogs, botanical illustrations and art, slides, postage stamps, and photographs.  Included within the rare book collection are several early illustrated herbals and nineteenth century titles featuring examples of beautiful botanic artwork. A few notable items include:

De Historia Stirpium Commentarii Insignes… by Leonhart Fuchs. Basel, circa 1542.

Produced during the sixteenth century and inspired by the German Renaissance, Fuchs’ De Historia Stirpium is one of the earliest work on plants to be considered scientific.  Illustrated with 511 woodcuts, the goal was to include all plants with recognizable medicinal qualities. 

The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes by John Gerard.  London, 1633

Essentially an English translation of Dodeons’ Pemptades of 1583,  Gerald completed and published The Herball as his own.  Later the massive volume was extensively edited and reorganized by Thomas Johnson. He  greatly enlarged the Herball and illustrated it with Plantin’s woodcuts. The importance of Gerard’s Herball in the history of botany is chiefly due to this improved edition, brought out in 1633, 36 years after its original publication.

Florilegium Renovatum et Auctum by Johann Theodor de Bry.  Frankfurt, 1641.

This work is a revised and expanded edition of de Bry’s previously published Florilegium Novum.  Created in collaboration with his son-in-law, Matthaus Merian (father of Maria Sibylla Merian), Florilegium Renovatum et Auctum depicts exotic flowers and plants growing in the gardens in and around Frankfurt.

Temple of Flora, or, Garden of the Botanist, Poet, Painter, and Philosopher: being, picturesque botanical plates of the New Illustration of the Sexual Systerm of Linnaus by Robert John Thornton.  London, 1799.

A presentation of large sized floral prints, botanical information, and nods to classic poetry, Temple of Flora is considered by many to be one of England’s premier botanical works.  Painters such as Reinagle, Pether, Edwards, and Henderson were invited to make paintings for the plates.  Consisting of a series of calligraphic title pages, 28 or more romantic engravings (hardly any two copies are quite the same), and Thornton’s colorful prose, the book is extravagant indeed and tthe work has established itself as one of the most treasured of fine flower books.

The Orchid Album (11 volumes) written by Robert Warner and illustrated by John Nugent Fitch.  London, 1882-97.

Containing more than 500 chromolithographic plates in 11 volumes, this work captured orchid varieties in their wild states before hybridization.  The plates were painted and lithographed by John Nugent Fitch, nephew of renowned botanical artist Walter H. Fitch.  Benjamin Samuel Williams published the album as a subscription series, with the idea of meeting a demand for orchid illustrations, descriptions, and notes on their cultivation. 

British Wild Flowers by Jane Loudon.  London, 1846.

British Wild Flowers contains hand colored lithographs based on Loudon’s own watercolors.  Married to noted gardener and publisher of horticultural books, John C. Loudon, Jane learned a great deal about plants by helping him with the production of several of his books.  When her husband became ill and unable to work, she turned to her writing to support the family.  Mrs. Loudon published five different books based on her artwork.  British Wild Flowers was so popular that it was printed in three editions.

The Botanical Magazine by William Curtis.  London, 1787- present.

A periodical designed to illustrate and describe newly introduced exotic ornamentals, William Curtis began publication of The Botanical Magazine and it continued to be printed with hand colored plates up into the 1940s .

  • Florilegium Renovatum
  • Temple of Flora
  • The Orchid Album
  • British Wildflowers
  • Curtis's Botanical Magazine