Three new prints being added to the collection today have an interesting history, having made their way to the Harvard Museum of Natural History by a circuitous route. The artist, Rosalba M. Towne, painted the flowers and plants from the work of Shakespeare when she was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, basing her work on the treatise “The Plant-Lore and Garden Craft of Shakespeare” by Rev. Henry N. Ellacombe. She offered the paintings to the Shakespeare Museum in Stratford-Upon-Avon, but received no reply in her lifetime, and died in 1909.
Her manuscript made its way to a bookshop in Paris, where a professor of botany at Harvard acquired it, and later donated it to the Botanical Museum at Harvard. In 1974, the manuscript was reproduced as a book, but until recently, the unbound plates sat in the attic. Now, they are for sale to visitors to the museum – which, incidentally, is free to Massachusetts residents before noon on Sundays. Go visit and pick up a print yourself, or borrow one from the library!
Jenny Arch is the Circulating Art Prints Coordinator for the Robbins Library.