Gift comes from New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill

Thursday, September 28, 2023
Close up view of a page from the book collection

A visitor to Dimond Library flips through one of the volumes in the rare botanical book collection recently given to UNH.

UNH’s Dimond Library is the new home of a rare botanical book collection that includes some volumes dating back as far as the 15th century, thanks to a partnership with New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill in Boylston, Massachusetts.

The collection, donated to UNH by the botanic garden, is the newest addition to The Milne Special Collections and Archives. The library hosted an opening reception to begin showcasing the collection Saturday, Sept. 23.

“One of the things that attracted the botanical garden to us as a potential home for the collection is our public service mission at UNH,” says Elizabeth Slomba, special collections librarian at UNH. “They gave the collection to us as a measure of faith in what UNH can do.”

Table view of volumes in botanical book collection

The Worcester County Horticultural Society, New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill Collection features more than 500 titles, with works dating from the early to mid-1800s as well as the select titles dating back to the late 1400s. It includes monographs and periodicals as well as drawings and lithograph depictions of New England-based fruit and flowers.

Some notable titles in the collection include the first edition of John Muir’s “Our National Parks” and “Incipit Tractatus de virtutibus Herbarium,” an anonymous compilation from classical, Arabic and medieval sources originally published in Mainz, Germany in 1484.

“For many years, the Garden’s rare and valuable books were only accessible via special request during our library’s limited hours. Considering the Garden’s educational mission, our trustees made the decision that it was time to find a better home for the collection,” says Grace Elton, CEO of the New England Botanic Garden. “They were determined to find a partner who would not only properly care for the collection but also make it more widely available. They had high standards and strict criteria for the collection’s new home. The Dimond Library has professional special collections staff and the facilities needed to protect these precious materials and handle them appropriately. They also have the experience and a reputation for maintaining the highest standards.”

The books in the collection cover a wide range of botanical topics and will serve as a valuable resource for students and as additional material that may enhance certain courses. There are easy connections to make with the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, but Slomba and Samantha Bradbury Koster, communications manager at the library, noted there are many other potential fits, including things like art history or advertising.

“We’re always thinking about how we can enrich the experience for the students, staff and faculty of the university, and a collection like this helps carry out that mission,” Slomba says. “A gift like this helps us improve the educational experience.”

The collection will be made available for community members to view, as well, and there are plans to digitize parts of the collection so that some of the material may ultimately be viewed by a more global audience.

Appointments to explore the collection can be set up by contacting

“We are thrilled the UNH will make this collection available to the academic community and the public, too,” Elton says. “We hope the collection will inspire and inform future study in fields from agriculture and plant science to book arts, printmaking and more. You never know how valuable archival collections can be to future scientific research.”

Makena Lee | For UNH Marketing