The Creation of Icones Farlowianae

From Specimen to Finished Plate
Armillaria imperialis

The 103 fungi depicted in the Icones Farlowianae went through several different stages before they finally became a finished plate. They were chosen from a pool of well over 600 plates prepared over a period of 22 years by two artists, Joseph Bridgham and L.C.C. Krieger. Each plate had to meet Farlow's high standards before it was considered ready for printing.

To provide a clear picture of just what was involved in the creation of each plate, we will examine the specific steps involved using the mushroom Armillaria imperialis, Icones Farlowianae plate number fourteen. It was drawn by L.C.C. Krieger in the early 1900s.



Each plate was based on an actual specimen collected by Farlow or others beginning in about 1888 and continuing through 1910. The species Armillaria imperialis was collected in August 1897 in Maine by a Mrs. Gresham, subsequent collections were made in October 1901 and September 1902 by G. Vroome at Saint Stephens, Maine.

To the left is the actual Armillaria specimen collected in September 1902 by G. Vroome. Many of the specimens were stored in tin cigarette boxes as shown.

Farlow experimented with photographic reproduction and many of the fungi were so documented. Gelatin or "dry" plate negatives were used. These became available in 1881 and quickly overtook the "wet" plate collodion negative. The developed glass plate negatives were masked or colored with red paint, now faded to orange, to more clearly delineate the outline of the fungus.

This negative is number 22. More than six photographs were taken of Armillaria imperialis.



In many cases the mushrooms were photographed from several different angles. This was to insure that the artist could capture the look of the fungus as it appeared when fresh. As the specimen dried the artist could use the photographs to help stimulate his memory.

This step was often necessary since Farlow reviewed each drawing and often times made changes that were incorporated only after the original mushroom had dried out.

The photograph on the left was made from negative number 27.

When photographs were used, the most representative were often chosen by Farlow and mounted on heavy stock paper to create a mockup. These mockups highlighted different aspects of the specimen. They were annotated by Farlow with the name of the collector and date collected as well as which negatives were used to create the mockup.


Here is the final version of the mockup for Armillaria imperialis. It uses negatives number 25, 26, and 28.

Unfortunately no records survive indicating who was responsible for the photographic work itself or the creation of these mockups.



Farlow always provided the artists with detailed notes indicating the location at which the fungus was found, its appearance and characteristics. He also provided them with his own sketches and drawings, and occasionally spore prints to help them fully understand the mushrooms he needed drawn.

These notes were also used later by E.A. Burt to create the text that accompanies each plate.

The artist, in this case Krieger, worked from fresh material as much as possible when creating the watercolors but they also collected together the materials outlined above to provide a more detailed understanding of each species.

These images were reviewed by Farlow and notes were made on the drawings themselves, regarding the accuracy of size, color, and other characteristics of the mushroom. These annotated drawings were returned to Krieger with notes or letters regarding changes to be made.

To the right are three drawings made by Krieger. From the dates the specimens were collected and the number he assigned them we can conclude that they were drawn probably about 1903-1904.

Krieger drew over 345 fungi in the approximately 10 years he served as Professor Farlow's artist. In many cases at least three to five drawings were made of each specimen before Farlow was satisfied with the accuracy of the representation. In some cases they were never as realistic as he liked and these images were put aside.



To the left is a copy of the final printed version of plate number 14, Armillaria imperialis. These plates were created by the Boston Heliotype Printing Company between 1894 and 1911. Their firm was chosen by Farlow because of their superior workmanship and the fact that they were close enough for him to keep very close watch on the work as it progressed.

The plates were stored at the Cambridge Safety Vaults until 1928 when they were retrieved for binding. Unfortunately while in storage many were water stained or worm-eaten. All in all about 50 copies of Icones Farlowianae were made with the damaged plates.

Back to the Icones Farlowianae Introduction

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