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For centuries, the Caribbean has been associated with tropical landscapes, exotic flowers, and sweet fruits. Paradise in Print provided the opportunity to present beautifully illustrated and rarely seen works from the rich collections of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, complementing the Garden-wide celebration of Caribbean Gardens: Journey to Paradise.
Lavishly printed folio editions, rare books, and original watercolors bring to life 500 years of Caribbean history and culture. European explorers recorded and celebrated their plant discoveries in publications depicting the regions flora. On view were magnificent images that capture the exotic beauty of Caribbean plants in volumes such as Etienne Denisse's Flore d'Amérique (1843-1846) and F.R. deTussac's Fiora Antillarum (1808).
Despite significant exploitation of its natural resources, the region continues to support an amazingly wide diversity of species, ecosystems, and natural beauty. This stems in part from sustainable development initiatives and protected areas, two activities that are on the rise. Since its founding, the Botanical Garden has been active in documenting and preserving Caribbean flora. The Garden's first expedition outside the United States in 1898, as well as that of its first director, Nathaniel Lord Britton, and his wife, Elizabeth, in 1903, traveled to the Caribbean. Today our scientists continue to survey and monitor the region's biodiversity, documenting the use of medical plants in Dominican health care, surveying all the plants and lichens of an entire island, albeit a small one, and collaborating with the University of Puerto Rico on plant research.
Jane Dorfman, Marie Long, and Stephen Sinon from the Mertz Library, skillfully curated this exhibition under the guidance of Susan Fraser, Director of the Library, with the support of the entire library and conservation staff. The result was a fascinating and beautiful presentation reminding us of the scope of our own history and collections.
President, The New York Botanical Garden