Monday, June 8th: Emily Dickinson

by Faye Thompson June 08, 2020

Monday, June 8th: Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson Horticulturist Journals

Today is Monday, June 8th

Rag & Bone Bindery is open for business

(read our post from Wednesday, March 25th for more information about how we're able to remain open for business)

Today, Emily Dickinson is known mostly for her poetry, but her words were not the only thing she spent her life pressing into paper. Having only published 10 pieces from her larger body of work during her lifetime, her Amherst community mostly saw her as a baker and a gardener. Dickinson was more than a common hobbyist, and while taking courses in botany at Amherst Academy and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary she collected over 400 samples of plants for her herbarium, a hand-bound collection of botanical specimens affixed to paper and labeled with their Latin names. As she became more and more reclusive, most heard and saw little of her beyond the papers she sent her friends and family, where she expressed condolences and congratulations alike through both the language of poetry and the flowers she pressed from her garden.

The first herbarium is credited to Luca Ghini, who began preserving his specimens through pressure and binding them into books in the 16th century. The practice quickly spread throughout the European world of natural science, but by the 18th century, the so-called “father of taxonomy” Carl Linnaeus had initiated the move away from collecting samples in books and towards preserving specimens on loose pages, to facilitate exchange between scientists and collections. It became standard practice that specimens were preserved on uniformly sized pages in cabinets, where they could be stored alongside similar species and moved within and between herbaria with ease. This collection etiquette still persists today. Even as these kinds of paper collections are increasingly scanned into online databases, allowing for the public and other scientists to have unprecedented access to each other’s collections, herbaria still hold a place of charm and wonder in natural history museums around the world. As Eve Rickenbaker, the UW Otis Hyde Herbarium Collections Manager, says, “It is always Springtime at the herbarium, even on cold gloomy winter days in Seattle. Whenever I feel bad, I just open a cabinet.”


We're so grateful to be able to continue to make books and to help you be creative at home. Please remain safe and take care of friends and family. Contact us anytime if you have questions. Use our contact page to send a direct message, or call us at 401 728 0762. We're usually in the Bindery by 9:00 and leave around 4:00 (EST). Cheers! - Jason



Faye Thompson
Faye Thompson