January 06, 2017
The Garden Club of America Rare Book Collection has found a new home at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). Included in this collection of more than 700 books is the 1841-44 octavo seven-volume edition of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America and the 1771 edition of Mark Catesby’s The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. Through the generous donations of members over the years, the GCA amassed the collection, which was housed in a small rare book closet at Headquarters. To make this important collection available to scholars and researchers, the Executive Board in 2016 finalized a memorandum of understanding with the NYBG for a long-term deposit.
The GCA retains ownership of the collection, while the NYBG pledges to maintain, store, exhibit, and provide access to scholars. Each of the books bears a simple and lovely bookplate, indicating that the book is part of the GCA collection. The books will also be listed online in the NYBG collection database.
Transferring a book collection is an elaborate process indeed. The trip to the NYBG was almost as exciting as the collection itself. After being packed in boxes and labeled with a detailed packing slip, off the books went in a secured truck to a special facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania. There the books were frozen at minus 42 degrees Fahrenheit for 72 hours to ensure they were pristine and bug- and mildew-free. The process was completed in less than a week, and the books were shipped, still in the unopened boxes, to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library at the NYBG, where they are being cataloged and inter-shelved with the NYBG collection.