Notes on collections at the RIHS
As another day of cold winter rain seeps into our bones, we cannot help but day dream of spring. As a typical Rhode Islander, I am never content with the current weather, often wishing it were otherwise, it is too hot or cold or dry or wet.
We have an astonishing portfolio of botanical illustrations in our collection. Drawn and painted by Edward Lewis Peckham (1812-1889) they are exacting studies of Rhode Island plants.
Originally in bound in five volumes called Collection of Watercolors, Illustrating Plants and Wildflowers In and Around Rhode Island the bindings were in various stages of deterioration. For the safety and preservation of the drawings, the over 400 pages of illustrations are now housed in their own folders in archival boxes.
Peckham’s illustration of the Yellow Ladies Slipper is one of my favorites. In the woods behind the house I grew up in, in northern Rhode Island, there were a few lady slippers. I can see them still, poking up through the leaf litter, bright yellow or pink in a forest of dull brown and ochre. Nothing beats the winter greys like a brilliant yellow lady slipper.
Another favorite of mine is the Wild Lupine illustration, completed eleven years before the Yellow Ladies Slipper, it is beautiful – Peckham has captured the very shape of the leaves and the color of the petals, the detail in the stem and the veins. Trying to limit this blog post to two images from the over 400 illustrations of Rhode Island plants was very difficult indeed.
Edward Lewis Peckham also painted scenes of Providence, including Field’s Point, Market Square and the Cove.
The finding aid for this wonderful collection of watercolor painting and illustrations is available in the Library Reading Room.
~Dana Signe K. Munroe, Registrar