Archives and Rare Book Room Collections

Antique Seed Catalogs | Gardens Yearbooks | Japanese Tea Ceremony | Japanese Woodblock Prints
Plant Fossils | Rare Books | Scrapbooks

Click here to view some postcards from the archives!

Antique Seed Catalogs

Housed in this collection are antique seed catalogs and garden manuals. These catalogs have beautiful bold vintage colored covers, and are works of art. These unique treasures are from a bygone era, and are like taking a walk back in time. These were collected and donated by Gary Gerlach and George Stitikus. The oldest in this collection is an 1895 titled “Richard Frotscher’s Garden Manual for the Southern States”.


Gardens Yearbook Collection

Housed in this collection are various garden club yearbooks. These are hand made and very unique. They may be small, but they are packed with lots of history. The garden yearbooks cover information like: when the club was organized, if they were federated, club motto, club theme, club flower, club color, club bird, club collect (prayer), objectives, mission, awards, gardening tips, officers, committees, club membership roster, new members, past presidents, constitution, and by-laws. This collection also includes highlights of special events, guest speakers, and preservation projects done by the club that year.



Japanese Tea Ceremony Collection

Click here to view more pictures.Housed in this collection are one of a kind, and authentic artifacts that were used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. Historic items include tea pots, chawan (tea bowl), incense pot, tea caddy, vases, tea tray, decorative straw rolled mats, kimono, chaire (tea container), hanging scrolls, hishaku (water ladles), chashaku (tea scoop), chasen (tea whisk), urns, hanging water containers and a folding screen. The handcrafted materials include bamboo, ceramic, wood, cast-iron, and even bronze. Some of the highlights of the collection include: samurai armor in the style of the Kamakura era, and a miniature replica of the Japanese Teahouse in Birmingham at 1/30 scale (Dainichi Kensetsu Co. Ltd, Artist/Builder Kazunori Tago). The collection also contains, original colored Japanese woodblock prints, all dating back to the 1850’s and 1860’s.

Japanese Woodblock Print Collection

This collection contains 25 authentic Japanese woodblock prints. Woodblock printing in Japan (Japanese: 木版画, moku hanga) is a technique best known for its use in the ukiyo-e artistic genre; however, it was also used very widely for printing books in the same period. The technique is essentially the same as that which is called woodcut in Western printmaking.

The technique for printing texts and images was generally quite similar; the obvious differences being in the volume produced when working with texts (many pages for a single work), and the complexity of multiple colors that might be encountered when working with images. Images in books were almost always in monochrome (black ink only), and for a time art prints were likewise monochrome or done in only two or three colors.

The text or image would first be drawn onto washi (Japanese paper), and then glued onto a plank of wood, usually cherry. Wood would then be cut away, based on the outlines given by the drawing. A small wooden hard object called a baren would be used to press or burnish the paper against the inked woodblock, thus applying the ink onto the paper. Although this may have been done purely by hand at first, complex wooden mechanisms were soon invented and adopted to help hold the woodblock perfectly still and to apply proper pressure in the printing process. This would be especially helpful once multiple colors began to be introduced, and needed to be applied with precision atop previous ink layers.

While, again, text was nearly always monochrome, as were images in books, the growth of the popularity of ukiyo-e brought with it demand for ever increasing numbers of colors and complexity of techniques.

Plant Fossils

This collection consist of plant fossils covering the Paleozoic Age (570–225 million years ago), to the Mesozoic Age (225–65 million years ago), to the Cenozoic Age 65 million years ago to present. Some of the plants samples include: Pine, Viburnum Leaf, Elephant Tree Leaf, Mahogany, Fir, Black Ash, Junipers, Oak, Willow, and Red Oak. These plant fossil samples were taken from various locations like: Quebec, Canada, South Dakota, St. Clair, Pennsylvania, Santago Province, Dominican Republic, Ellsworth County, Kansas, Rio Blanco County, Colorado, Salem, Oregon, Florissant, Colorado, and Tennessee, Illinois. There are even some local plant fossil samples that were collected from Hoover, Helena, and Riverchase, Alabama. One of the prize possessions of the collection is a five foot long Calamite sample intact from the Carboniferous Period in Alabama.

Rare Books

Click here to view more pictures.This collection consists of over three hundred rare and antique books that cover a wide range of botanical and horticultural topics from the 17th century forward. The oldest book date as far back as 1676 by John Rea, “Flora: seu, De Florum cultura: or, a complete florilege furnished with all requisites belonging to a florist.” Some of the topics covered in the collection include: botany, wildflowers, ferns, trees, wood, herbal, garden history, and landscape design, orchids, and roses. The rare books cover gardens from historic Virginia to locations around the world such as Europe, Japan, and Italy. All of the rare books in the collection are cataloged on the Jefferson County Library Corporative (JCLC) Catalog. These books can not be checked out, or photocopied, but you can use a digital camera. Some of the Rare Books were donated by Dr. Hughes Kennedy, George Striticus, and J.A. Meissner. You can check the library catalog at


This collection contains historic scrapbooks of Birmingham Botanical Gardens and various local garden clubs and societies starting from the early 1960’s to the present. They cover everything from day to day activities, vintage photographs, special events, newspaper articles from the Birmingham News and Birmingham Post-Herald, member and volunteer highlights, local history relating to Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Some of our featured scrapbooks in the collection include the Japanese scrapbooks that show highlights and history of our Japanese Gardens, tea ceremonies, and the tea house. Also the Ida Burns 100th Birthday Celebration, (1901-2001) on Wednesday, November 14, 2001. Ida Burns was the founder our library and is Librarian Emeritus.