For years, scientists such as Charles Darwin, David Fairchild, Friedrich ("Fritz") Wilhelm Ludwig Kränzlin, and Pierre Étienne Simon Duchartre kept detailed records of their experiments, findings, thoughts, and theories. Transcribing these notebooks provide an intimate view into the building blocks of their theories and discoveries—they may even provide clues to new discoveries.
Transcribing these handwritten notebooks not only allow one to search the contents and increase accessibility, but they also provide insight into how these great minds worked. Transcribers learn the idiosyncrasies of the individual's handwriting and their thought processes. Some scientists, such as Kränzlin, meticulously studied prints from the leading scientific publications of the day.
The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lenhardt Library has received a grant award of $73,368 from the Illinois State Library for digitization. This grant, for uniquely held items in Illinois, allows us to digitize one-of-a-kind handwritten, nineteenth-century manuscripts for which no other copy exists. The scientific notebooks of German orchidologist Friedrich ("Fritz") Wilhelm Ludwig Kränzlin and French lily specialist Pierre Étienne Simon Duchartre will be transcribed. The project continues the library's previous grant work to digitize and transcribe Kränzlin's unpublished works. Over the 18-month grant period that began on July 1, 2018, these resources will be uploaded to the Illinois Digital Archives (IDA), an open and freely accessible repository for digital collections of Illinois libraries and cultural institutions containing historical documents. The transcription project will ensure access to these historically significant documents by a wider number of scholars, gardening enthusiasts, and members of the general public.
Dedicated volunteers and staff completed the transcriptions in 2020.