The creation of Icones Farlowianae: Illustrations of the Larger Fungi of Eastern North America was a long and complex journey. It involved no less than four botanists, two professional artists, two commercial printers, one warehouse, and numerous photographers and editors. The work spanned more than forty years and cost an estimated $50,000 at a time when a lavish new house cost less than $9,000.
An icones, from the Latin icon meaning an image or figure, is a collection of illustrations representing a specific object or subject. The Icones Farlowianae was an important project for Professor William Gilson Farlow who, although carrying a full teaching and administrative schedule for most of the years he labored over it, believed that it would serve as a much needed guide to the fungi of Eastern North America, especially for those who did not possess a large collection of fungi to use in conjunction with identification.
Following Farlow's death in 1919 two of his former students, Roland Thaxter and Edward Angus Burt along with Carroll William Dodge, the Curator of the Farlow Library and Cryptogamic Herbarium, assumed the responsibility of publishing the guide. This however, proved to be no easy task. Both Thaxter and Burt suffered from ill health, Burt lost much of his money in the 1920s stock market, and all had numerous other commitments that included teaching, research, and their own publishing. There were also problems with the printers and the plates themselves; many were worm eaten or stained while in storage. Burt explains, in his introduction, that it was worth all of the hardship to honor the memory of Dr. Farlow.
- [It is] the present writer to whom criticism should be directed for all shortcomings or errors which exist in the descriptive text, but it is his hope that none such may be found, for he would contribute these pages, as would his fellow students of those former days, as a wreath to the memory of our revered and inspired teacher and friend who taught us to aim always for the utmost in accuracy and excellence.
Edward Angus Burt, St. Louis, Missouri
February 22, 1928