Collections in the spotlight: Flowers of the Brazilian forest

Published on
May 8, 2023

In the Collection in the Spotlight series, we’re taking a closer look at exciting databases and hidden gems in our collections. This month, we’re discussing Flowers of the Brazilian forest, [31 paintings by Margaret Mee], a big favourite of Corrie Snijder, collection specialist at WUR Library.

What inspired you to choose this particular book?

This book was a gift from a 91-year-old former student of the university. Her son contacted me because she wanted to gift this rare, limited-edition book to the Library. It is a magnificent book with 31 hand-painted watercolour pictures of the tropical plants and flowers growing in the rainforest in Brazil.

What makes this book a valuable addition to the collection?

The illustrations were painted in the 1950s and 1960s. It provides a good picture of the plant life of the rainforest of that period. The book has the look and feel of the great botanical painters of the 18th century, but it is a modern work, published in 1968.

What do you think students and faculty can learn from reading this book?

As the author Margaret Mee became more and more concerned about the impact of deforestation on the Amazon habitat and flora, she started to emphasise the need for conservation of that habitat. She did this by including the natural habitat in the background of the paintings, hoping this would demonstrate the link and interdependency of plant and environment.

What sets this book apart from others in its genre or subject area?

Renowned plant taxonomists made significant contributions to the scientific text associated with each plate. Additionally, Mee provided valuable notes from her diaries about each plant.

Illustration of a flower

If you had to describe this book in one word, what would it be and why?

Absolutely magnificent (sorry, two words). Because of the truly amazing illustrations in this book.

Can I have a look?

Yes, the book is on display in the reading room of the Special Collections. Please, request it on WUR Library Search. We'll email you when it's ready for you to view.

Full reference:

Mee, M., & Tryon Gallery. (1968). Flowers of the Brazilian forests. Tryon Gallery in association with George Rainbird