“The Summer solstice arrives on 6/21 @ 1:04 am,” Columbus Metro Parks tweeted last week. “What are your plans for the longest day?”
Boy, had I made some great plans! For over 10 years, I’ve been wanting to visit the Lloyd Library, so I cashed in some vacation time and hit the road for Cincinnati. Anna Heran, the Lloyd’s exhibits curator and education/outreach coordinator, took me on a tour of the stacks, where I saw some of the library’s most terrific treasures. To use one of Anna’s terms, the Lloyd is über-cool.
The Lloyd Library is the legacy of three brothers who were natives of Kentucky: John Uri Lloyd; Nelson Ashley Lloyd; and Curtis Gates Lloyd. In 1864, John Uri arrived in Cincinnati to begin a pharmacy apprenticeship. His two younger brothers joined him not long after, also apprenticing as pharmacists. Eventually, they founded Lloyd Brothers, Pharmacists, and John Uri became one of the most accomplished pharmacists of his time.
John Uri was my kind of guy. He wrote eight scientific books, six treatises, 5,000 papers, eight novels and 60 short stories. He invented or improved on a number of laboratory apparati, most notably the Lloyd Cold Still, used to extract medicinal properties from plants. He also worked to preserve the Big Bone Lick paleontological site in Kentucky.
When John Uri began studying Eclectic medicine and its botanical remedies, he began collecting books on plant chemistry, pharmacy and medical botany. These research materials that the Lloyds needed to make their products, together with the two books John Uri brought with him to Cincinnati – Edward Parrish’s 1864 edition of A Treatise on Pharmacy and George Fownes’ 1864 edition of A Manual of Elementary Chemistry, Theoretical and Practical – formed the basis of the library. The collection that once fit in this elegant glass-fronted walnut bookcase has grown to almost 250,000 volumes, earning the Lloyd Library deserved recognition as one of the largest and finest pharmaceutical libraries in the United States.
Since 1898, the library has stood in almost exactly the same place as where it began. The Lloyds built the library’s first home in 1901, but their growing collection prompted them to construct a new building in 1907-8, at 309 West Court Street. In 1970, the current building at 917 Plum Street was erected, adjacent to the 1908 building. The Court Street building was razed to provide a parking lot for library patrons. This is a much-appreciated gesture indeed, since the library is located Downtown.
The closed-stacks, non-circulating, independent research library is open to the public through a trust that Curtis Gates, a lifelong bachelor, established in 1917. Manuscript collections, seed catalogs and historical pharmaceutical objects are stored in compact shelving downstairs. These museum collections started with a herbarium of over 30,000 specimens collected by Curtis Gates, who became a renowned botanist with a particular interest in fungi. After his death, the botanical specimens were transferred to the University of Cincinnati and the U.S. Department of Agriculture received the mushroom specimens.
Upstairs, the Lloyd houses books covering the fields of agriculture, aromatherapy, botany, chemistry, gardening, herbal medicine, horticulture, travel, perfumes and cosmetics, among other botanical, medical, pharmaceutical and scientific subjects.
It was a big treat to see highlights from the library’s rare book collection, comprised of European titles from 1493 to 1699 and American titles from 1798 to 1850. Early works on botany include one of the original 25 copies of the ten-volume Flora Graeca by John Sibthorp, a publication of the plants of Greece dating from 1801-1840.
Another elephant folio book that Anna showed me was the second volume of Mark Catesby’s The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, which includes this hand-colored copper-plate engraving of a Magnolia.
Johann Hieronymus Kniphof’s Botanica in Originali seu herbarium vivum was printed in Magdeburg, Germany between 1759 and 1761. Besides being the first botanical plate book to follow the Linnean plant species classification system, it is an early example of nature-printing. The volume includes about 1,200 hand-colored plates where impressions of plants were made using printer’s ink that was applied to the specimens themselves. That one definitely was über-cool.
Anna also showed me a copy of Omnium Stirpium Sciagraphia et Icones…, written by Dominique Chabrey and printed in Geneva in 1678, that was owned by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This volume has been in the Lloyd’s collection since at least 1893, when it was entered into the handwritten library catalog that Curtis Gates compiled. Besides inscribing the book’s title page, Rousseau also annotated several entries in his own hand, evidence that the French philosopher was also a student of botany.
To introduce the public to its collection, the Lloyd Library offers educational classes, programs, and an art gallery where local artists who feature natural history subjects in their works display their art.
The library will also have a presence at the Midwest Native Plant Conference, to be held July 26-28, 2013 at the Bergamo Center in Dayton.
The George Rieveschl, Jr. History of Pharmaceutical Chemistry Exhibit provides a look at Rieveschl, a pharmaceutical chemist who discovered the anti-allergy drug, Benadryl, in the University of Cincinnati’s chemistry labs in the 1940s. The exhibit includes one of John Uri’s Cold Stills and a Soxhlet extractor used to isolate the compound that came to be known as Taxol, an anti-cancer drug discovered in the 1960s and brought to market in the 1980s.
The library also prepares changing collections-based exhibitions in the reading room. The North American Experience: Early America Illustrated, which I saw on its last day, included the work of Charles Plumier, the 17th century French botanist for whom the tropical Plumeria, used to make leis, is named. It also included a plate of illustrations of a raccoon and the American pole cat, from Swedish-Finnish naturalist and explorer Pehr Kalm’s Travels into North America, printed in 1770-1771,
artwork by French botanical illustrator Pierre-Joseph Redouté for François André Michaux’s Histoire des arbres forestiers de l’Amerique septrentionale, published between 1810 and 1813, and a December 14, 1813 letter from Thomas Jefferson to Michaux that was found inside a volume of Michaux’s North American Sylva that was purchased in Paris for the library.
Chloris Boreali-Americana: Illustrations of new, rare, or other-wise interesting North American plants, written by William Starling Sullivant’s friend, Asa Gray, and published in 1846, was on display. Gray is considered by many as the most important American botanist of the 19th century.
With just a few weeks to go until I land in Dublin, Ireland, I was interested to see the work of an Irish botanist in the exhibit. Nereis Boreali-Americana, a three-part survey of the marine algae of North America published between 1852–85, was written by William Harvey, an Irish botanist who was curator of the Trinity College Herbarium, professor of botany at the Royal Dublin Society, and an authority on algae and mosses.
The next exhibition, Wounded Home, opens July 22 and continues through January 20, 2014. The exhibition features new artwork by seven artists that was inspired by text and images from the Lloyd’s collection of Civil War resources. Library materials used by the artists during their research will also be on display.
Two of the Lloyd’s most creative outreach initiatives can be found at the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden. In April 2009, the library created a display area in the Carriage House Restroom to introduce visitors to the history of pharmacy in Ohio. The display includes a print of Ohio medicinal plants by Cincinnati botanical artist Dianne McElwain; two replica late-17th century Delft tiles depicting pharmaceutical scenes; and a medicine cabinet including bottles of remedies and herbal supplements made from Wild Geranium; Gum Plant; Prairie Coneflower; Goldenseal root and Wild Yam; as well as rhubarb and ipecac syrup.
The Lloyd Medicinal Garden at the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden is scheduled to be completed later this season. Planted under an apple tree taken from a cutting of one of the last living trees planted by Johnny Appleseed, the garden will feature some of the medicinal plants John Uri worked with, such as Echinacea and Rhubarb.
To read more about the Lloyd, check out John Uri Lloyd: His Life and Works, 1849-1936, with a History of the Lloyd Library, by Corinne Miller Simons and The Lloyd Library and Its Makers: An Historical Sketch, by Caswell A. Mayo.