Nature on the Page: The Print and Manuscript Culture of Victorian Natural History

Fern-fever, orchidelirium, the seaweed craze: for Victorians, natural history was a pleasurable pursuit sometimes bordering on a psychological disorder. At more than a thousand volumes, the Fisher Library's Victorian natural history collection provides a unique opportunity to trace the ways in which the medium of print stimulated and sustained the nineteenth-century appetite for natural history. This exhibition showcases both the collecting and manuscript practices of naturalists and how books, in some instances, encased the specimens themselves. A special focus here is women practitioners of natural history -- as authors of and contributors to published works, and as artists and collectors. On display will be copies of some of the most popular natural history works of the day: J.G. Wood's Common Objects of the Country - and some of the most beautiful and rare: James Bateman's Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala. Weighing more than 38 lbs, Bateman's work is considered the largest book published with lithographic plates.

This exhibition is curated by Maria Zytaruk, Associate Professor of English, University of Calgary.

There's a free hour-long audio guide that accompanies this exhibition, narrated by the curator. She guides visitors through the themes of the exhibition and point to specific highlights in each of the cases. You can download it on your mobile device via SoundCloud (click on link for the playlist of the audio guide) or by visiting the Fisher Library's iTunes site.

To information on purchasing the catalogue for this exhibition, please visit our Ordering Publications page.