By Irwin Richman
The books that I buy for my personal collection are chosen because they are resources that I can return to on a whim or for a purpose year after year after year. Seed Art is a wonderful example of just such a book. In 176 illustration filled pages, this book traces the history of American seed art from the European still lifes which so profoundly affected the genre to the chromolithographic technologies that transformed art into commercially viable specimens and ultimately to a century and more of beautiful seed packets.
Seed Art is a library of illustrations and photographs assembled from private and public collections throughout the United States: Nursery sample book plates, hand colored engravings, chromolithographed canned goods labels, 19th century trading cards, seed catalog covers, commission box displays and hundreds of seed packets. The illustrations and photographs are nicely supported with illuminating text, but the book is really about the artistry expressed through the genre of seed art and more than 95% of the content is illustration.
It is not an overstatement to say that every individual who has ever purchased a packet of seeds would enjoy this book and find the history described on its pages fascinating. The "Ladies Bonnet Made From Dish Rag Gourd" on page 66, the article on "Pre-Historic Corn" on page 78 and the sweetly simple humor of the onion novelty card on page 27 declaring "I Could Cry My Eyes Out For You" are worth returning to again and again.
The author, Irwin Richman, is a distinguished American Studies professor retired from Penn State University. Since he retired he has assumed the position of Director of Research and Development for the Heirloom Seed Project at the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He is an avid gardener, lecturer and author. His lifelong investigations into understanding historical America and a nearly lifelong fascination with horticultural art are the inspirations for this book.