Not long ago I was idling away an evening with the 2003 Heronswood Nursery catalog. This is a famous catalog that no longer exists (nor does the nursery, as of May, when new owners W. Atlee Burpee & Co. closed it), and I’m sorry I threw away the other issues I had. They’re probably collectors’ items already, but with no ISBN, and no real title or author, how can I locate them at Alibris.com?
I have found other nurseries with interesting ranges and funky websites, and the truth is that I didn’t buy much from Heronswood because the northwestern climate is so different from ours in the Berkshires (one of Burpee’s plans was to open a “Heronswood East”), but that business was very special, born of individual vision and a passion for plants from all over the world. There were six-foot Solomonâ€™s Seals from the mountains in southern China, for example, and the catalog included stories of collecting seed in all kinds of remote areas. A remarkable number of their plants did come from China.
Berkshireâ€™s a little like that, I think, in our passion for bringing knowledge abouat, and from, all corners of the world to the gardens (classrooms, armchairs, lecture halls) of the English-speaking world. Now we need to make sure that we donâ€™t suffer the fate of Heronwood! (Itâ€™s actually quite interesting to read the blog and website countering the â€œnegative reports in the mediaâ€ about the Burpee closure. I have mixed feelings: I can sympathize with the need to run a profitable operation, and realize that visionary founders are often poor at making business decisions. All good fodder for our current business planning.)
Iâ€™ll be writing more about how the spread of knowledge but on a closely related theme, hereâ€™s a preview of the LA Midwinter Issue of Against the Grain, guest edited by yours truly. The theme of the issue is â€œBeyond Boundaries: Knowledge Innovation and Generationâ€ and the contributions are quite diverse:
- â€œA Healthy Information Economy (In Memoriam Milton Friedman),â€ Howard Burrows, Autonomous Undersea Systems Institute, Vermont
- â€œLooking Back, Looking Forwardâ€â€”Q&A with Richard Charkin, CE of Macmillan, London
- â€œThinking Globally: The Benefits of Interdisciplinary Publishing,â€ David Levinson, editor of the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, and president of Berkshire Publishing
- â€œFrom Collection to Connection,â€ David Pollard, Meeting of Minds, Toronto
- â€œSocial Media Simplified,â€ Karen Christensen
- â€œReference Universe: Unlocking Librariesâ€™ Reference Collections,â€ Eric Calaluca
- â€œThe Good Library Campaign and the Future of U.K. Libraries,â€ Tim Coates
- â€œTop Ten Innovations in Library History,â€ David Tyckoson