New York State Museum
January 30, 1918 The Honorable John II. Finley
President of the University Sir:
The scientific survey of this State, established in 1836 under the title
" The Natural History of New York," embraces in its monumental reports two volumes treating of the flora of the State. These volumes, prepared by the distinguished botanist, John Torrey, bear the inscription: Flora of the State of New York; Comprising Full Descriptions of All the Indigenous and Naturalized Plants Hitherto Discovered in the State, with Remarks on Their Economical and Medical Properties (1843). The species described in this work were entirely of the phenogamous or flowering plants. Until that time no summary of the New York flora had been brought together; and the service rendered to the people of the State by the publication of this compendium was of a high order and was received with enthusiastic appreciation. Doctor Torrey's books served the needs of the time and expressed the state of its knowledge of the New York flora.
Seventy-five years have passed, and in that long stretch of time botanical science has grown widely and apace. The field of cryptogamic botany, that which deals with the flowerless plants, the mushrooms, mosses, lichens and their kind, was not entered in these early reports; it was obscure and little understood; its mostly inconspicuous growths did not attract the eye or invite the observer; nor were its important relations to the economy of the community even suspected.
The early official botanical investigations of the State were formally terminated by the publication of John Torrey's reports. Not till 1867 did the need of continuous official attention to this department of science meet the recognition of the Regents of the University. In that year Charles Horton Peck was designated to take charge of such botanical collections as had accumulated in the State Museum, and not long thereafter Mr Peck was officially appointed the State Botanist. To the botanical service of the State Mr Peck thereafter dedicated himself without reserve for the rest of his long life. He added much to the store of knowledge of the flowering plants, but the veiled world of the flowerless plants the more invited him and to it he specially gave his labors; leaving behind him a harvest of knowledge of them and a repute for his intricate researches which ranks him high on the roll of great botanists. Doctor Peck spared no effort, however, to increase the store of knowledge of all the flora of the State and he is the creator of the large state herbarium. After fifty years of unstinted devotion to his science and to his State, Doctor Peck fell asleep in honor, in the year 1917.
Since the date of Torrey's report, the flowering plants have been the subject of study in all parts of the Commonwealth. Botanical societies and local students have multiplied; records have grown; the demand for information has greatly increased; but there has been no reliable exposition of such information accessible to these students.
It has been with this purpose of meeting a wide demand and of setting forth with such excellence as present knowledge and perfected modes of illustration could afford, that the present work, The Wild Flowers of New York, has been projected. The undertaking, bound to be an arduous one, has not been entered upon hastily. The advice of the leading botanists of this State and country was sought as to its timeliness, its scope, mode of presentation and illustration. The interested public will find it to be not a highly technical guide, couched in closely analytical descriptions, but a comparatively brief text, untechnical so far as the theme permits, accompanied by color illustrations made from the growing plants. The present State Botanist, Dr Homer D. House, is the responsible author of the work; he has not only prepared the text and its arrangement, but has supervised in detail the color photography; he has accompanied the photographers into the field on every visit and has selected every subject which is here reproduced.
The color illustrations must speak for themselves. They have been executed with most painstaking care by the quadricolor process, and the living and growing plants have been reproduced in their colors as near to those of nature as now seems possible. Credit for the printing and binding of the work should be given to the J. B. Lyon Company of Albany, but the Matthews-Northrup Company of Buffalo and the Zeese-Wilkinson Company of New York are to be accredited with the quality and making of the color plates.
As such, then, these volumes are given to the people of the State and as such, we believe, they would have this service rendered.
John M. Clarke
One who is upon the gray ocean at this season of the year when, in the woods and at the roadsides in the State of New York, the wild flowers are beginning to redeem their promises of life, appreciates as never before how much these quiet, persistent pioneers of the fields contribute in scent, color and form to the making of that which is summed up in the name New York; even as the heather to the making of that country whose headlands are now dimly emerging from the level sea. The sight of a spray of these native flowers, such as many a page in this book carries, would be as a twig borne back in ancient times to the ark - a sign that, though the flood of war has overwhelmed many valleys, the elemental processes of life go forward undisturbed in the " Empire State." Whatever the economic value or imputed harm of these aborigines, first settlers, later immigrants and vagrants which together constitute the Flora of the State, it is desirable from every point of view, since they are our near, most welcome but sometimes intrusive neighbors, that we should know their faces, their habits and their capacities for good or warning of ill. It is a great realm of life within the State of which the State as a whole should acknowledge the possession.
I have unusual satisfaction in finding it my official opportunity to say an introductory word to this notable and distinguished work, because it is the record of a possession which the Director of the State Museum, Dr John M. Clarke, has enabled the State to make. It has a great practical value, but it has another value in making perennial and keeping in perpetual domestic bloom, in home and schoolhouse and library, flowers that blossom but a few days or weeks in the wild state in which they have been so skilfully and sympathetically discovered by Doctor House. I am proud that the State has made possible such a publication and that The University of the State of New York has been able to execute the commission with such success.
President of the University
On the Atlantic Ocean