Women Writing Works on Natural History

March 8, 2019

In observance of International Women’s Day, we call your attention to works on natural history by women authors included within our Cairns Collection of American Women Writers. This is but a sampling from relevant holdings in a collection “rich and resonant enough to support research in a variety of disciplines and fields of study,” to quote Susan Barribeau, Literary Collections Curator in Special Collections.

Many women authors aimed their books on natural history at a juvenile audience, and their publishers saw fit to commission eye-catching decorative trade bindings. Witness these two editions, issued 4 years apart, of a work on animal behavior:

Cover, 1875 edition

title page

Miller, Olive Thorne, 1831-1918. Little folks in feathers and fur: And others in neither. Hartford, Conn.: Dustin, Gilman; Cincinnati: Queen City Publishing; Chicago: M.A. Parker; St. Louis: Excelsior, 1875. Call number: Cairns QL49 M63 1875. The cover and spine of this edition also figure in Publishers’ Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books.

Title page, 1879 edition

Miller, Olive Thorne, 1831-1918. Little folks in feathers and fur, and others in neither. New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1879; New York: J.J. Little & Co. ©1879. Call number: Cairns QL49 .M63 1879.

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Addressing matters of botany were such titles as

Cover

Title page

 

Frontispiece

Parsons, Frances Theodora. According to season: Talks about the flowers in the order of their appearance in the woods and fields. New and enlarged edition with thirty-two plates in color by Elsie Louise Shaw. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902. Call number: Cairns QK118 P2 1902. Two variants of the Margaret Armstrong binding on this title came to us “From the library of Marjorie Woodward Hood, class of 1940” through the generosity of her daughters – see CA 18060 no. 102 and CA 18060 no. 103, also in Special Collections. See the initials MA near the lower right corner of the cover design. For more examples of Armstrong’s work, browse her work in Publishers’ Bindings Online, including close-up images of the binding design for According to season.

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On entomology,

Cover

 

Frontispiece

Title page

Kenly, Julie Closson. Little lives: The story of the world of insects. Illustrated by Edna Reindel. New York; London: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1938. Call number: Cairns QL467 .K52 1938.

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And this, combining botany and zoology:

Cover

Title page

Torelle, Ellen. Plant and animal children: How they grow. Boston; New York [etc.]: D.C. Heath & Co., [1912]. Call number: Cairns QH48 T6 1912. Our copy bears the inscription: “For Little Jimmy  October 11, 1925  from Aunt Lucy.”

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Watch this space for more from Special Collections on women writers of scientific works, whether intended for juvenile readers, a general audience, or specialists.