Special research collections

Seed and nursery catalogs

The Andersen Horticultural Library hosts one of the largest seed and nursery catalog collections in the country. With nearly 80,000 items dating from 1614 to the present, it includes catalogs from every state and over 40 countries. Many Minnesota and other Upper Midwest companies are represented.

The value and historical importance of this collection is quite broad. Many catalogs contain beautiful artwork and photographs, documenting advertising trends within the industry. The collection provides insight into printing trends as well. Perhaps most interesting, one can see the introduction of specific plants into the trade. Some of these introductions came through discovery, while others were imported or hybridized.

The catalogs are kept in acid-free folders or boxes on compact shelving. Older catalogs are housed in a climate-controlled room to help preserve them.  All are available to see, with an appointment. Over 1,000 current year catalogs are also available for use any time.

Individual seed and nursery catalogs are not listed in the University Libraries' catalog. 

For specific holdings, please contact us (612-301-1239; HortLib@umn.edu).

Some of our catalogs have been digitized and are available at UMedia Archives: 
Three Minneapolis Seedswomen Catalogs
Minnesota and Midwest Seed and Nursery Catalogs

The Seed and Nursery Catalog Collection was built with the support and inspiration of Governor Elmer L. Andersen.

Our view was that the Andersen Horticultural Library should have a special area of excellence. We latched on to one early: its collection of nursery and seed catalogs would be the best in the nation.  

The seed and nursery catalog collection is funded in part by the Andersen Book Trust and the Friends of the Andersen Horticultural Library. 

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Rare books and journals

The rare book and journal collections includes 16th century herbals, 21st century florilegia, and an array of important and beautiful works in between.

Many of the books were purchased by Elmer and Eleanor Andersen specifically for Andersen Horticultural Library. Support from the Andersen Book Trust, Friends of the Andersen Horticultural Library, as well as donations by individuals, enable us to continue adding to this collection.

The focus of the collection is on botany, horticulture, natural history, and landscape design.

Works include several by noted figures, such as Carl Linnaeus, John Gould, and Humphry Repton. Many of the works feature botanical illustration, from crude engravings of early herbals to the exquisite renderings of Pierre-Joseph Redouté and Georg Dionysius Ehret. Thousands of plants are immortalized by beautiful botanical images found in more than two centuries of Curtis's Botanical Magazine. 

The majority of the titles in this collection are included in the University of Minnesota Libraries online catalog.

This collection is available for research or viewing with an appointment.

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Frances R. Williams Hosta Archives

The Andersen Horticultural Library is privileged to count among its special collections, the Frances R. Williams' Hosta Archives. This archive consists of correspondence, notebooks, photographs, and slides of Hosta plants by Mrs. Williams. 

Frances Williams' interest in Hosta developed after her children were grown, and she had time to devote to her small, shady yard in Winchester, Mass. Over the next forty years she accumulated a vast knowledge of Hosta through growing and breeding plants, making observations, taking copious notes, and in carrying on a prodigious correspondence with people all over the world. In 1969, the American Hosta Society gave her a citation for "inspiring others with the love of Hosta." 

The archive is available by appointment.

Edmund J. Phelps

After graduating from Yale, being an ambulance driver in the French War Zone during WWI, joining the French Foreign Legion, and marrying Katherine Marfield in 1920, Edmund J. Phelps was bored with the insurance business and entered Harvard University's Landscape Architecture program in 1926. He returned home to Wayzata, MN to start his design-build practice. His work included site development of many large estates, especially in the Lake Minnetonka area. He designed the Japanese Embassy site in Washington D.C. and the General Mills headquarters in Minneapolis, Minn. The University of Minnesota College of Design awards an Edmund J. Phelps Memorial Scholarship.

The Andersen Horticultural Library has a small collection of photographs, from Phelps, of his work, along with miscellaneous correspondence and notes from his files. This collection is available by appointment. 

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