The Flower Encyclopedia and Gardener's Guide by Albert E. Wilkinson Illustrated by Tabea Hoffman circa 1943
For sixty-nine cents the New Home Library will send you the world with a fence around it... (from a 1943 book review for The Flower Encyclopedia and Gardener's Guide - News & Record - Greensboro, North Carolina)
Published in 1943, The Flower Encyclopedia and Gardener's Guide is pretty explanatory in its title as far as inner contents go, but it also tells the backstory of an illustrator and educator whose combined talents brought this lovely reference book to life. Let's look..
Illustrated by Tabea Hoffmann (1905-1954), a well-regarded American botanical artist this vintage garden book comes to life with her black and white line drawings of a wide variety of flowers, garden plans, and tools. As a girl, Tabea wanted to be a concert pianist. She devoted most of her hours to that course of study, but the other few leftover hours went to tending her flower garden - a child-size plot that she began one season when she was young. Wanting to keep a record of what she grew that first year, she picked up sketch pencils and paints and made drawings of her plants and flowers so she'd have visual memories of her first gardening endeavors long after the actual flowers died.
The personal satisfaction of that impromptu painting session during that first season ignited a new passion in Tabea that the piano could never quite compete with. Art school followed, along with trips to study in New York, Paris, Rome, and Germany. A teaching job in New Jersey followed her international adventures as well as a position at Vogue magazine as a colorist. When an art show featuring her orchid drawings made a lasting impression on viewers, her publishing career took off and Tabea became the go-to girl when it came to requests seeking botanical illustrators for garden books. Illustrating over a dozen midcentury garden books, her work was praised for its delicate precision and accuracy. Prolific throughout the 1930s and 1940s, tragically, Tabea's career was cut short when she died at the age of 48. Thankfully her drawings still inspire gardeners and artists alike today.
Albert E. Wilkinson (1880-1947) was a professor of landscape gardening at the University of Connecticut at the time this book was published, and he was also in charge of educating local residents on home gardens for the State War Council. It was the middle of World War II and victory gardens were both a necessity and a point of national pride for families wanting to participate in the war effort.
Albert, an expert in his field, gave detailed lectures on how to start a war-time garden including the space requirements, food allotment and tools needed to get the job done and keep a family fed. He advised that a typical victory garden needed to be sized at 100' feet x 110' feet in order to feed a family of four while also keeping the pantry stocked with 80 jars of home-canned vegetables (50) and fruits (30).
A professor at Cornell University before he took up a long-time teaching position in the horticulture department at the University of Connecticut, it was this type of practical knowledge that made Albert a well-known vegetable specialist, a trusted home garden expert, and a horticultural advisor trusted by gardeners across the country. In addition to teaching classes, he wrote newspaper columns, sent out a monthly newsletter via mail, and lectured on various aspects of American gardening. He toured gardens, both nationally and internationally studying them from all angles to gather tips, techniques, and the most up-to-date practices so that he could share them with avid gardeners who were just as interested in successfully growing food and flowers as he was.
This gardening book, arranged alphabetically, contains all sorts of interesting information on a wide variety of flowers. Covering annuals and perennials, the first section of the book includes details about specific plants - their appearance, location, nicknames, fun facts, propagation info, and growing needs. The second half of this book is devoted to gardening advice and education on flowerbed layouts, landscape designs, tool requirements, pests, fertilizers and a year-round calendar of garden chores and projects.
Combining Tabea's flower portraits with Albert's knowledge makes this a really lovely and interesting look at gardening trends of the early 1940s. We especially love this book best for its handy go-to flower directory, and it's timeless how-to-garden advice.
Photo of Tabea Hofmann courtesy of The Brooklyn Eagle, November 1947. Photo of Albert E. Wilkinson courtesy of The Montclair Times, October 1940
- Published in 1943 by the New Home Library
- Contains 524 pages including an illustrated glossary
- Contains original dust jacket
- Decorated coverboards
- Fully illustrated throughout with black and white line drawings by Tabea Hofmann
In beautiful vintage condition. The dust jackets bears some chippy spots along the top and bottom edge. The coverboards and interior pages are clean and bright. There is some light discoloration on the inside front coverboards caused by the acidity in the dust jacket paper flaps. The spine is tight and all pages are intact.
Measures 8.25" inches (length) x 5.5" inches (width) x 1.25" inches (thickness) and weighs 1.3lbs.