Anne Dondertman - A Collection of Rare Horticultural Books

February 25, 2013 Meeting.

Anne Dondertman is Acting Director of U of T’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and curator of the recent exhibition, How Does MY Garden Grow: The Education of a Gardener. She will focus on the evolution of our knowledge of gardening and horticulture from Greek and Roman times up to the twentieth century.

It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep…

James A. Baldwin, a great American writer of the second half of the twentieth century, was addressing a far deeper subject than collections of books on plants, gardens and horticulture in the quote above; still, the sentiment of his quote does apply quite nicely to our own Anne Dondertman—in the most positive light possible. She is a keeper of sorts, but like most librarians, she takes great pride in sharing treasures, rather than guarding them for herself. This month, for those like me who missed the exhibit she curated, How Does MY Garden Grow: The Education of a Gardener at U of T’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library last year, she is sharing it yet again at our meeting.Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris “Park-in-Sun’s Terrestrial Paradise” John Parkinson, 1629

Anne is a long-time member of the Hort, who loves gardening. She thought to indulge this love by combining it with her love of books; she thought it would provide some fun at work where she was Assistant Director and Department Head of Rare Books at the venerable library.

Since there was no specific horticulture collection, she had quite a task ahead of her to curate the whole exhibit from “a lot of interesting material” in the collection. It was intense work that took a number of years to compile. While on leave to complete the exhibit, fate deemed that she would not only return to work, but take on duties of the Acting Director of the library on top of her own roles as Assistant Director and Department Head! It is a testament to her love for this project that it was so successfully completed.
The basis of the exhibit was an exploration of three different historical phases in our relationship with plants and how we learn about them and gardening. These include the dissemination of information in books and other forms of print, and today, through other media. Some members of our Hort visited the exhibit, receiving personal tours, and Anne also hosted tours from the RBG.
Although the exhibit has ended, it is still being shared through the History of Horticulture Exhibition catalogue that was published, which can also be accessed online here. It is full of wonderful illustrations, the fruit of Anne’s effort in mining the Fisher Library collections for this labour of love. You can watch her describing the exhibit in this video.
Anne believes gardening in her small Toronto garden keeps her sane. Thank goodness for that and for her perseverance in shedding light on the rich collection she helps keep, but is happier to give.
—Maria Nunes
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