The Oaks News
New from Dumbarton Oaks Publications: The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century
A Swiss doctor pens the first survey of Russia’s fauna. A British opium trader builds an opulent garden with plants culled from Indian and Chinese ports of call on land bought from the Maori in New Zealand. A Mongol monk writes a medical manual in Tibetan on the fringes of the Qing Empire. A Prussian naturalist takes field notes on Peruvian rafts used to haul massive loads of fruit up rivers.
Welcome to the world of The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century, where plants prove even more globally mobile than the people and politics that set them in motion. Imperial geopolitics meets the systematic study of plants—transformed by new discoveries, inventions, and taxonomies—in this book of essays by sixteen scholars working across five continents. Plants were the focus of cutting-edge experimentation, and botany was big business. Opium could build, or topple, a nation; so could the ginseng that cured an addiction. The ability to identify, document, ship, and transplant the right plants built fortunes and projected power. Trading in plants and exploiting their properties became a key way to grow and run an empire.
The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century investigates the ambitions of the nations that sought to use this power; documents some of the “agents of empire” who were its sometimes ambivalent enablers; charts the routes traced by people and plants around the globe; and examines how people and nations alike used plants to fashion identities for themselves. Featuring 183 full-color illustrations reproduced at high quality from prints, books, and paintings, many drawn from the rich collections of the Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Collection, this book also highlights the artistic merits of the thousands of botanical publications of this age of empires.
The book grew out of a symposium held at Dumbarton Oaks in fall 2013 to celebrate the Rare Book Library’s fiftieth anniversary. Editors Yota Batsaki, Sarah Burke Cahalan, and Anatole Tchikine have brought together contributors from disciplines that include landscape architecture, media studies, comparative literature, archaeology, history, and art history. Readers can also sample its contents through an extensive online exhibit developed in conjunction with the 2013 symposium. Together, The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century and the accompanying exhibit provide indispensable resources for anyone interested in the history of science, the eighteenth century, imperial studies, and the history of globalization.
Sign and Design: Script as Image in Cross-Cultural Perspective
In 2012, an international conference held at Dumbarton Oaks considered cases where image and script were fused into a hybrid sign. Tackling a range of examples from an assortment of cultures, especially those with a natural home at Dumbarton Oaks, the ideas planted then have flowered into a publication, which is being released this month. Editors Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak and Jeffrey Hamburger explain that Sign and Design: Script as Image in Cross-Cultural Perspective “marks a shift away from an interest in text and image to a concern for the dialogic role of image in writing.” The book groups its essays into three suggested directions for examining the systems of representation that give script-images meaning: the iconicity of script, text as “imaging the ineffable,” and performativity. Scholars from disciplines including history, art history, and anthropology work in concert to bring together subjects as different as Aztec pictographic writing, Sumerian and Akkadian monuments, and medieval Jewish book art. You can find out more about Sign and Design and purchase it on the Harvard University Press website.
Dumbarton Oaks in the News
In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda calls Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau’s Letters of a Dead Man, recently published by Dumbarton Oaks as part of its ex horto series, a “classic of travel literature,” comparing the prince’s account of his time in Britain to Stendhal’s writings on Italy. “This richly illustrated edition of the Letters of a Dead Man is one of those books that bring an era to life,” Dirda writes. “En route to England, Pückler visits the aged Goethe in Weimar; in London, he dines with the great financier Nathan Rothschild; later, he flirts with the Duchess of St. Albans, a foundling raised by gypsies who slept her way to the top.” You can purchase Letters of a Dead Man on the Harvard University Press website.
The Washington Post’s Adrian Higgins meditates on the role of designed landscapes in academic life, including a mention of Dumbarton Oaks and a few words from John Beardsley, director of Garden and Landscape Studies: “Harvard University’s research center at Washington’s Dumbarton Oaks provides the sweetest blend of landscape and academia, even if the Georgetown garden started life as a private paradise.”
In another piece, Higgins features an installation on the Arbor Terrace that recreates a sixteenth-century physic garden in Padua. He also explores Dumbarton Oaks’ links to the Paduan model through Beatrix Farrand and the Rare Book Collection.
Thirty Young Diplomats Also Visit Birthplace of the United Nations
On the occasion of China’s “Youth Day” on May 4, Dumbarton Oaks received a visit from Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai, who was accompanied by thirty young diplomats from China. The group was eager to see the Music Room, where the conversations that laid the groundwork for the United Nations were held in 1944, and also were given a tour of the museum and gardens. Dumbarton Oaks presented the ambassador with gift copies of its new publication, Thirty-Six Views: The Kangxi Emperor’s Mountain Estate in Poetry and Prints. In the picture above, the ambassador presents Dumbarton Oaks with a gift book from the Embassy of China.
Dumbarton Oaks Papers 67. Edited by Margaret Mullett. Dumbarton Oaks Papers (through volume 66) is also available digitally at JSTOR.
Between 1902 and 1952, the founders of Dumbarton Oaks, Mildred Barnes and Robert Woods Bliss, maintained regular correspondence with their friends Elisina and Royall Tyler. Almost one thousand of these letters are being published as an online resource: the Bliss-Tyler Correspondence.
This announcement marks the publication of the first two sections, from 1902 to 1908 and from 1909 to 1919. We see Europe before the First World War through the eyes of the budding art connoisseur Royall Tyler, while we explore the artistic landscape of galleries and auction houses in the period and learn about the active roles the Blisses and Tylers both played in wartime charities. We also meet other important figures of the time: the German Kardorff family of artists and politicians, novelist Edith Wharton, Gypsy artist and Flamenco guitarist Fabián de Castro, and Spanish man of letters Miguel de Unamuno.
The project includes historical introduction, explanatory footnotes, plates of artworks, and short annotations identifying key individuals, places, and objects. New annotations, plates, and transcriptions are added regularly. We encourage readers to return often to glimpse the unfolding of the first half of the twentieth century from the perspective of these four correspondents.
Past Presented: Archaeological Illustration and the Ancient Americas, edited by Joanne Pillsbury, will be awarded the Association for Latin American Art’s annual book prize on February 12 at the College Art Association meeting in Chicago. The award, supported by the Arvey Foundation, is for the best scholarly book published on the art of Latin America from the Pre-Columbian era to the present. This comes only a year after Ancient Maya Art at Dumbarton Oaks received the College Art Association’s Alfred A. Barr, Jr. Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries, Collections and Exhibitions.
Illustrations remain one of the fundamental tools of archaeology, a means by which we share information and build ideas. Often treated as if they were neutral representations, archaeological illustrations are the convergence of science and the imagination. This volume, a collection of fourteen essays addressing the visual presentation of the Pre-Columbian past from the fifteenth century to the present day, explores and contextualizes the visual culture of archaeological illustration, addressing the intellectual history of the field, and the relationship of archaeological illustration to other scientific disciplines and the fine arts. One of the principal questions raised by this volume is how do archaeological illustrations, which are organizing complex sets of information, shape the construction of knowledge? These visual and conceptual constructions warrant closer scrutiny: they matter, they shape our thinking. Archaeological illustrations are a mediation of vision and ideas, and the chapters in this volume consider how visual languages are created and how they become institutionalized. Past Presented: Archaeological Illustration and the Ancient Americas is about the ways in which representations illuminate the concerns and possibilities of a specific time and place and how these representations, in turn, shaped the field of archaeology.
Garden and Landscape Studies Colloquium | November 1, 2013
On November 1, 2013, the Garden and Landscape Studies Program held a one-day colloquium on "Travel and Translation." Its aim was to explore the ways in which landscape design ideas are transmitted and exchanged—sometimes through literal travel and translation, and sometimes through study, absorption, and interpretation.
This colloquium also marked the launching of Ex Horto: Dumbarton Oaks Texts in Garden and Landscape Studies, a new series comprising translations of classic and rare texts on garden history and on the philosophy, art, and techniques of landscape architecture.
The first two volumes were published in the fall of 2013. The first, an edition and translation of a manuscript owned by Dumbarton Oaks, is Travel Report: An Apprenticeship in the Earl of Derby's Kitchen Gardens and Greenhouses at Knowsley, England, written by the German court gardener Hans Jancke in 1874–75. The other is the translation of Die Gartenkultur des 20. Jahrhunderts (Garden Culture of the Twentieth Century) by the German designer Leberecht Migge, which appeared on the centenary of the book's original publication in 1913.
Given that the first two titles in the translation series are German, the focus of the colloquium was on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Germany and Central Europe, with comparative talks on Italy, England, Ireland, and the United States. Speakers included David Haney from the University of Kent, who translated Garden Culture and discussed Migge's response to English and American ideas about metropolitan park design; Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn from Leibniz University Hannover, who addressed Jancke’s travels in the context of the education of gardeners in the second half of the nineteenth century in Germany; and Hubertus Fischer, also from Leibniz University Hannover, who focused on the travels and travel reports of German court gardeners in the early nineteenth century, especially Heinrich Ludolph Wendland. In addition, Finola O'Kane Crimmins from University College Dublin spoke on the travels of Irish revolutionaries in France and the impact of these experiences on the formation of their ideas; Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto from the University of Pennsylvania discussed the response to Palladian villa gardens in the context of the Grand Tour; and Kristof Fatsar from Corvinus University Budapest spoke about the history of adopting English landscape garden forms in Hungary in the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Dumbarton Oaks in the news
- The role of Dumbarton Oaks—and of Director of Byzantine Studies Margaret Mullett—in the continuity of Byzantine Studies and in fostering the field is mentioned in G. W. Bowersock’s review of two recent books by Judith Herrin, “Storms Over Byzantium,” in The New York Review of Books 60, no. 18.
- The Friends of Music concerts of November 3rd and 4th by pianist Joel Fan were recently reviewed in the Washington Post.
- The October symposium on "The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century" and Linda Lott's Four Seasons of Flowers were reviewed by Patricia Jonas in the Newsletter of the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries, no. 131 (November 2013).