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Slider Images from: Cycad Biology and Conservation: The 9th International Conference on Cycad Biology.
Edited by Nan Li, Dennis Wm. Stevenson, and M. Patrick Griffith.
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As one of the premier plant collectors in North America during the late nineteenth century, the work of Cyrus Guernsey Pringle (1838–1911) was, and remains, outstanding. Far from emerging from nowhere, his illustrious career grew over the span of a decade from his earlier work in horticulture. This book first considers those years, including Pringle’s contributions to three scientific efforts of national scope—the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, the 1880 census of American forests, and the Jesup Collection of North American Woods—in detail. Each opportunity was critical not only to his developing expertise in field botany, but to expanding his network of scientific colleagues. From that point forward, this volume is devoted to documenting the travels and discoveries Pringle made in the western United States and northwestern Mexico—the Pacific Slope—between 1881 and 1884. His itinerary is recorded by more than 2700 plant specimens, supplemented by contemporary accounts, correspondence among more than twenty of his friends and other scientists, as well as other primary sources. Illustrations are carefully chosen to represent the places, the plants, and this time period that was formative both for Pringle and for American botany; among them is a never before published series of photographs that Pringle took himself in 1884 in the deserts of Arizona and Sonora. Complementing the story are appendices listing the plant species and specimens that Pringle collected, along with a series of historical maps showing the routes and localities that he visited. The circumstances of Pringle’s early life, the professional opportunities that he enjoyed, and the very timing of his work created a trajectory not common to other collectors. Pringle was not given to self-promotion, however, and was reluctant to publish autobiographical accounts or even to record his travels for posterity. While his later work in Mexico is best known, the story of Pringle’s early career and all that he accomplished in the western states has not been written before now. This is a book that Pringle could have published had he chosen to, but one that benefits from the perspective of more than a century since his work in the region.
Download the review by Scarlett T. Townsend in Huntia, a Publication of Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation Carnegie Mellon University, Huntia 17(1) 2018 here.
"I first encountered Cyrus Guernsey Pringle (1838–1911) about 15 years ago when we used a photograph of him in his Vermont herbarium for the Database page on our Web site. I wrote a short biography from our secondary sources, which was not ideal but had to be done given limited resources and time constraints. I had this tantalizing glimpse of a botanist with a western story but no way to take a closer look. Years later I came across a photograph of Pringle by a wagon with a stack of specimens. The American Civil War and the American West are my personal areas of interest, but here was a different perspective on the West and its popular cowboys. When the email arrived asking if we would be interested in reviewing the book, I knew I was interested in reading it, but I did not plan to get roped into doing the review. Then I opened the book and found Pringle’s wagon on the endpapers. In no time we were rattling along in that wagon."
—Scarlett T. Townsend, Huntia Editor
Kathryn Mauz investigates topics in historical ecology, incorporating fieldwork, museum specimens, and archival resources. She is a graduate of The Colorado College, completed her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona, and currently lives in her home state of Colorado. Photo by Patrick Andrade/RELIC Fine Art Studios, Denver, Colorado Kathryn Mauz's Author Page