Chinese Pith Paintings

The two-volume collection of botanical paintings on pith paper currently housed in the Archives of the Arnold Arboretum (Cambridge) were acquired by Charles Sprague Sargent around 1912.

Album painting 13. Chinese paintings of flowering plants, hand-colored on rice paper. c.1850. Botany Libraries, Arnold Arboretum Library (Cambridge), Harvard University.

    An album of pith paintings was gifted to the Archives of the Gray Herbarium by Miss E.E.P. Holland. This album contains leaves of colored plates painted on pith paper. A handwritten inscription on the bookplate reads: "from the library of Rev. Frederick W. Holland, Harvard '1831. Brought from China probably as early as 1840. Originally bound in blue silk." The blue silk binding is now absent, but the beautifully rendered paintings have survived to this day.

    Illustrations of Chinese plants on pith 


    Album painting 6. Illustrations of Chinese plants. c.1840. Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University.