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Tania Norris Donates Rare Botanical Books to the Getty Research Institite

by Deb Shaw

BAGSC member Tania Norris has generously donated 41 rare books from her personal collection to The Getty Research Institute (GRI)

Tania has been collecting these books individually for the past 13 years from booksellers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia. The collection provides the opportunity to study and compare the contributions of natural science and the visual display of scientific and botanical illustration from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries.

"Chrysanth," Crispijn van de Passe, 1614 From Crispijn van de Passe, Hortus floridus (Arnhem, 1614) The Getty Research Institute, 2898-803 Donated by Tania Norris

“Chrysanth,” Crispijn van de Passe, 1614 From Crispijn van de Passe, Hortus floridus (Arnhem, 1614) The Getty Research Institute, 2898-803 Donated by Tania Norris

Two important works include Crispin Van de Passe’s Hortus Floridus, published in 1614, and Johann Christoph Volkamer’s Nürnbergische Hesperides, published in 1708. The  Hortus Floridus is believed to be the first illustrated book to illustrate plants using magnifying lenses. Johann Christoph Volkamer’s Nürnbergische Hesperides is a fascinating documentation of the introduction of Italian citrus to Germany, as well as the revolution in urban planning and the design of parks.

The collection also includes a copy of Maria Sibylla Merian’s Derde en laatste deel der Rupsen Begin (Birth of the Butterfly), published in 1717, the first book to depict insect metamorphosis. The volume is believed to be one of the few surviving copies that was hand-colored by Merian’s daughter. Tania’s donation will have a companion in the GRI vaults: Merian’s stunning Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam (1719), the self-published book which documented the her explorations and documentation of the wildlife of the South American jungles. BAGSC members will remember the Metamorphosis fondly, as it was featured prominently in the Getty Museum’s exhibition, Merian and Daughters in 2008, which celebrated the extraordinary contributions of Maria Sibylla Merian and her daughters.

“The Getty Research Institute is deeply honored to receive the donation of the Tania Norris Collection of Rare Botanical Books from one of the founding members of our GRI Council. This gift promises to open novel paths to explore the complex historical intersections between science and art,” said Marcia Reed chief curator at the Getty Research Institute. “Tania’s passionate interests and her collecting instincts have created a very generous gift which has also served to raise the profile of an important subject with strong relevance for researchers who use our special collections.”

David Brafman, curator of rare books at the GRI, said “The Norris Collection offers inestimable rewards for scholars researching global botanical trade and the ensuing stimulus of cultural exchange to the trend of collecting curiosities spawned in Renaissance and Baroque European culture. Other books in the collection document the codependent progress of technologies in the history of medicine, pharmacology, and the color and textile industries from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. No less important are the opportunities to study the complex artistic relationship between physiognomy and ‘naturalism’ in visual representation, as well as developments in urban planning and landscape architecture. Ms. Norris’ generous donation enhances significantly GRI’s existing collections in such subjects and promises to transform the way art historians examine the past in the future.”

The Norris Collection will also provide insights in ongoing research in landscape- and still-life painting, as well as recipes and global trade in color and pigments.

Tania was a founding member of the Getty Research Institute Collections Council, and also serves on the J. Paul Getty Museum Disegno Drawing Council and Paintings Conservation Council. “It was one of the proudest moments of my life when the Getty Research Institute accepted my books for their library. I never collected expecting anyone else to think my books of interest, “ she said. “But now at the GRI, anyone can view them; some have been or will soon be in exhibitions and programs. More importantly, they will be preserved for generations to come.” She added, “You don’t need much money, just passion to collect and you just never know what treasures you may have.”

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