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Getty Research Institute announces gift of The Tania Norris Collection of Rare Botanical Books
Chrysanth (detail) from Hortus Floridus, Arnhem, 1614). Crispijn van de Passe. The Getty Research Institute, 2898-803. Donated by Tania Norris.
LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Getty Research Institute announced yesterday the acquisition of The Tania Norris Collection of Rare Botanical Books, a gift from collector Tania Norris. Assembled over the last 30 years by Ms. Norris through individual acquisitions from booksellers in the US, Europe, and Australia, the collection consists of 41 rare books that provide unparalleled insight into the contributions of natural science to visual culture in Europe from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries.

Highlights of the collection include Crispin Van de Passe’s Hortus Floridus (1614), apparently the first illustrated book to apply the microscopy of magnifying lenses to botanical illustration; and Johann Christoph Volkamer’s Nürnbergische Hesperides (1708), documenting both the introduction of Italian citrus culture to Germany, and the revolution in urban planning which ensued from the parks designed for their cultivation and irrigation. Also found in the collection is a copy of Maria Sibylla Merian’s Derde en laatste deel der Rupsen Begin (1717), the first book to depict insect metamorphosis, reputedly hand-colored by her daughter.

“The Getty Research Institute is deeply honored to receive the donation of the Tania Norris Collection of Rare Botanical Books from one of the founding members of our GRI Council. This gift promises to open novel paths to explore the complex historical intersections between science and art,” said Marcia Reed chief curator at the Getty Research Institute. “Tania’s passionate interests and her collecting instincts have created a very generous gift which has also served to raise the profile of an important subject with strong relevance for researchers who use our special collections.”

David Brafman, curator of rare books at the GRI, said “The Norris Collection offers inestimable rewards for scholars researching global botanical trade and the ensuing stimulus of cultural exchange to the trend of collecting curiosities spawned in Renaissance and Baroque European culture. Other books in the collection document the codependent progress of technologies in the history of medicine, pharmacology, and the color and textile industries from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. No less important are the opportunities to study the complex artistic relationship between physiognomy and ‘naturalism’ in visual representation, as well as developments in urban planning and landscape architecture. Ms. Norris' generous donation enhances significantly GRI's existing collections in such subjects and promises to transform the way art historians examine the past in the future."

In particular, the unique hand-colored copy of Maria Sibylla Merian's Der Rupsen Begin (Birth of the Butterfly) from the Norris Collection will find a companion in the GRI vaults: Merian's stunning Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam (1719), the self-published book which documented the watercolors, drawings, and scientific studies she executed and conducted while exploring the wildlife of the South American jungles. The GRI copy was featured prominently in the Getty Museum's exhibition, Merian and Daughters, which celebrated the extraordinary pioneering contributions of the artist-naturalist, the first European woman to travel to America expressly for artistic purposes.

The Norris Collection will also prove an invaluable complement for research in landscape- and still-life painting, as well as mention the insights it will provide to conservators and conservation scientists about recipes and global trade in color-pigments and other preparations in the decorative arts.

In addition to being a founding member of the Getty Research Institute Collections Council, Ms. Norris also serves on the J. Paul Getty Museum Disegno Drawing Council and Paintings Conservation Council.

“It was one of the proudest moments of my life when the Getty Research Institute accepted my books for their library. I never collected expecting anyone else to think my books of interest, “ said Ms. Norris. “But now at the GRI, anyone can view them; some have been or will soon be in exhibitions and programs. More importantly, they will be preserved for generations to come.”

“You don’t need much money, just passion to collect and you just never know what treasures you may have,” she added.

Much of the collection has been on deposit at the GRI and available to researchers; the remaining materials will be cataloged and available by the end of year.



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