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COLLECTION Identifier: Herbaria Special Collections Thoreau

Herbarium of Henry David Thoreau

Scope and Contents

This collection includes plant specimens collected by Henry David Thoreau starting in 1850. In addition to the main collection of plant specimens, there is also a bound volume which is titled Catalogue of Herbarium of Henry D. Thoreau, beqeathed to Boston Soc. of Nat. Hist., which consists of a hand-written listing of the specimens included in the herbarium.

The collection is digitized and available here.

The specimens are databased in the Harvard University Herbaria Index of Botanical Specimens. That is the most up-to-date and complete record of the specimens. Use the barcode to search for individual specimens. The database includes additional information including collecting locality, date, and notes.


  • 1850-1862



1 collection (651 sheets of plant specimens in 28 boxes, 1 box of original wrappers, and 1 manuscript (46 pages)) ; specimens 59 x 69 cm; manuscript 22 cm

Historical Note

Henry David Thoreau may be best known as a writer, but he was also a botanist who collected hundreds of specimens of New England plants to create his own herbarium. Thoreau's earliest herbarium specimens were collected in 1850. Over the next few years, he read many botanical works and increased his field observations. Thoreau continued to collect for his herbarium over the following years, until his collection grew to about 900 specimens.


The specimens are arranged by plant family. They are divided into Portfolios, then Folders, then each sheet of specimens is assigned a specimen number, and is located in a numbered box.

Other Finding Aids

There is a detailed item level finding aid in the repository with box, portfolio, folder, and specimen sheet numbers. For additional information please contact

Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862. Herbarium of Henry David Thoreau, 1850-1862: A Guide
Harvard University Herbaria and Botany Libraries.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries. The Gray Herbarium Library specializes in the identification and classification of New World plants with emphasis on North American plants. The Archives of the Gray Herbarium houses unique resources including personal papers, institutional records, field notes and plant lists, expedition records, photographs, original artwork, and objects from faculty, curators, staff, and affiliates of the Gray Herbarium.

Harvard University Herbaria
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