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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1118.13

Emily Dickinson botanical specimens


Pressed botanical specimens sent to poet Emily Dickinson, most of which are labeled with geographic locations in the Middle East.


  • undated

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the originals requires the permission of the curator.


Copyright in the works of Emily Dickinson is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and others. For permission to quote from or reproduce from manuscript material of Dickinson, contact the Curator of Manuscripts, Houghton Library. For permission to quote from published editions of Dickinson's work that are still in copyright, contact Permissions Dept., Harvard University Press, 79 Garden St., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 02138-1499.

Conditions Governing Use

Images linked to this finding aid are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.


.3 linear feet (6 folders in 1 box)

This collection consists of two groups of botanical specimens. The first group is specimens sewn contemporaneously onto cut pieces of notepaper, a few of which retain an embossed paper mark in the upper left corner. These are from Europe and the Middle East, presumably sent to Dickinson by friends. The second group is specimens that were loose when received by the Library, and are now mounted onto cardstock for their better preservation. None of these were identified, and they have been reconstructed and mounted as best as they could be assembled.

Biographical / Historical

Emily Dickinson, poet of Amherst, Massachusetts, received formal training in botany and horticulture while a student at Amherst Academy from age 9 to 16. Her devotion to the science of and appreciation for plants came naturally, however. She joined her mother in gardening from an early age and took charge of a family conservatory in her twenties. Her herbarium (MS Am 1118.11) was produced during her years at Amherst Academy. These botanical specimens were never mounted in that or any other herbarium.

Nada Sinno Saoud, Post Herbarium Curator, American University of Beirut, has provided some tentative plant identifications.

It is possible that some or all of the labeled specimens were sent to Dickinson by Abby Wood Bliss, a schoolmate from Amherst Academy, who went to the Middle East as a missionary wife in 1855. Eleanor Johnson, a descendent of Abby Bliss, believes the handwriting on the labels for the Middle East specimens to be Abby's.


Arranged into the following series:

  1. I. Specimens with labels
  2. II. Unidentified specimens

Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession number. Purchased from Alfred Leete Hampson; with funds given by Gilbert H. Montague, class of 1901, in happy memory of Amy Angell Collier Montague; received: 1950 May.

Related Materials

Emily Dickinson's finished Herbarium of 424 pressed specimens of plants is held at Houghton Library (MS Am 1118.11), as is a smaller, unfinished herbarium (MS Am 1118.12).

Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886, recipient. Emily Dickinson botanical specimens, undated: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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