Autumn has come!

By Miriam van der Molen, Archivist, Special Collections & Archives

The air has suddenly become much cooler, and the days drastically shorter. I thought it would be apt to share some autumnal content from our collections.

First is a poem by Alexander Smith, contained in a collection of poems called ‘The Poetry of Earth: A Nature Anthology’, published by George G Harrap and Company (1910):

The beech is dipped in wine; the shower
Is burnished; on the swinging flower
The latest bee doth sit.
The low sun stares through dust of gold,
And o’er the darkening heath and wold
The large ghost-moth doth flit.
In every orchard Autumn stands
With apples in his golden hands.

Woodcut of beehives from ‘Omnia Andreae Alciati v.c. emblemata cum commentariis…’ (Antwerp, 1581) by A. Alciati

This is the time of year when people are harvesting the produce that has been growing for months. Here are some drawings of parts of apple and pear trees in a botanical educational book by Otto Schmeil, as well as potato plant parts:

While apples and pears get eaten, not everything is edible for humans. Take horse chestnuts for example. Horses can eat them, but they are poisonous to humans. However, they are useful in that they can be used to make an eco-friendly laundry liquid for slightly to medium soiled laundry. You need about five chestnuts per load of laundry. Beat them with a hammer (outside on the ground is safest), remove as much shell as possible, and mash the white inside part until it has turned into smaller pieces (the smaller the better, but they don’t have to be very small). Then put into a container and pour hot water over the pieces. After soaking between 5 hours and 2 days, pour through a sieve into the laundry detergent section of the washing machine. Add a few drops of essential oils if you want a little bit of a fresh smell.

Horse chestnuts. From ‘Lehrbuch der Botanik’ by Otto Schmeil.

If you prefer flowers in your garden, rather than food, Schmeil also has some nice pictures showing tulip composition. This is also relevant to our Autumn theme, as this is the time to put down flower bulbs. So if you dug up your bulbs earlier this year, or have just bought some, get digging and plant them so you will get some pretty Spring flowers next year.

Tulips. From ‘Lehrbuch der Botanik’ by Otto Schmeil.

The book ‘Garden Perennials’ by John Weathers, has a lovely image of sweet peas and of an oriental poppy. Another book, ‘Hardy Perennials’ by A.J. Macself (1922), tells us that poppies grow well in lots of places, whether sheltered or on a hill, or in rich soil or gravel. The one thing they do need is sunlight, however. So while sweet peas and poppies are finished flowering now for this year, any plants that are still standing may have seeds that are now ready for harvesting for sowing next year.

To summarise, it is now the time to pick and eat fruit such as apples and pears, dig up potatoes, gather chestnuts to make laundry liquid, plant bulbs of flowers such as tulips and daffodils, and collect seeds of any plants whose flowers have produced them now. Happy gardening and gathering!

‘Observations on Nature’ Heritage Week in the Russell Library

Post by Saoirse Reynolds, Special Collections & Archives

The Secretary of States’ House at Palmerston
 Published by J. Fisher 1792


me and os
Ordnance Survey Map of Kildare

On August 21, 23 & 24 the Russell Library took part in Heritage Week with an exhibition exploring nature through the historical print collections of the Russell Library. Books on gardening, botany, agriculture, husbandry and medicinal plants were on display some of which referred to the local area.

A 6inch Ordnance Survey map of Kildare was on display as well as items from our Special Collections in the John Paul II Library.

One of the most visually interesting and beautiful books which was on display was William Hanbury’s, A complete body of planting and gardening published in London in 1770-71. Hanbury was a Church of England clergyman and horticulturist, was born at Bedworth, Warwickshire in 1725.  He matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford in 1745 and graduated in 1748. The degree of MA was subsequently conferred on him by St Andrews University on 11 November 1769 in recognition of his achievements in planting.

cortusa hanbury
Image of Spotted Cistus, Purple Cortusa and Double Blossomed Cherry
 In ‘A complete body of planting and gardening’ by William Hanbury


A Rare Book from the Russell Library which was on display was Scenery of Ireland: illustrated in a series of prints, of select views, castles, and abbeys, in this kingdom by Jonathan Fisher. The book was printed in Dublin in 1792 and has beautiful illustrations of castles and abbeys of Ireland. Fisher was an Irish painter and was born in Dublin in 1740. He is first recorded in 1763 when he was awarded a premium by the Dublin Society for a landscape. He is best known for his fine engravings and aquatints of Irish scenery. He travelled all over Ireland and published views of Killarney in 1770 and 1789. He lived at Great Ship Street, Dublin, from about 1778 until 1805, when he moved to Bishop Street, Dublin, where he died in 1809.

scenery fisher
‘Scenery of Ireland’ by Jonathan Fisher


Another beautiful book we had on display from our Special Collections was Ireland’s wild orchids /orchid portraits by Susan Sex with accompanying text by Brendan Sayers. It was printed by Nicholson & Bass in Belfast in 2004 and is a limited edition of 700 signed and numbered copies.

Two volumes of Charles Henry Dessalines d’Orbigny’s Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle were on display also. D’Orbigny was a French botanist and geologist

Images of colourful butterflies and a rose
in d’Orbigny’s ‘Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle’

specializing in the Tertiary of France. He was the younger brother of French naturalist and South American explorer, Alcide d’Orbigny. At the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, d’Orbigny identified many of the flowering plant species returned to France from his brother’s natural history collecting journeys through South America.

For more information on any of these items please contact us:

Special Collections John Paul II Library

Phone: 01-4747423, e-mail:

Russell Library

Phone: 01-7083890, e-mail: