Mushroom is quietly becoming a superstar on the global stage.
Sure, not everyone likes pizza, but who cares?
In the 21st century, they are being hailed as role models and potential planet saviors (not to mention the hugely popular design motif…)
Louie Schwartzberg’s pioneering documentary time-lapse cinematography, Fantastic Fungi, has made us all experts.
Go back a century, and such knowledge is much more difficult to acquire, requiring time, patience, and proximity to fields or forests.
Witness Mushrooms collected in Shropshire and other neighborhoodshand drawn and hand drawn 3 volume collection by one of Miss MF Lewis, from Ludlow, UK.
Miss Lewis, a gifted artist with a clear passion for mycology spent more than 40 years painstakingly documenting the specimens she found in the West Midlands region of England.
Each drawing or watercolor is identified in Miss Lewis’s hand by the scientific name of the subject. The location where it was found was dutifully recorded, as was the date.
The hundreds of species he caught with pen and brush between 1860 and 1902 are clearly the work of a lifetime, as well as unpublished work.
Cornell University’s Mann Library, where the only copy of this valuable record is kept, has managed to truffle up but one reference to Miss Lewis’ scientific mycology contributions.
The English botanist William Phillips, writing in T. 1880 editiontransactions from the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Societynoted that he had been “allowed to see” [a work] very much excellence executed by Miss MF Lewis, from Ludlow”, adding that “some rare species” [of fungi] very artistically represented.”
The historical significance of Miss Lewis’s work extends beyond the realm of mushrooms.
As Sage wrote in Missing Misses in Mycology, a post on the Mann Library’s Tumblr celebrating Miss Lewis and her contemporary British mycologist and illustrator Sarah Price, women’s work is often omitted from the official scientific record:
While we are now seeing a sizable effort to improve records, finding countless stories to fill in the gaps can be a tricky business. It’s not that the story never happened—the field of botany, for example, is replete with some pretty spectacular evidence of the (often unacknowledged) involvement of women with scientific inquiry, embodied in detailed illustrations that capture observational insights from the natural world. But published historical records are often scanty when it comes to closer details about the lives and careers of the women who have helped advance modern science.
We may never learn more about the particulars of Miss Lewis’ training or personal circumstances, but the care she took to preserve her own work turned out to be a great gift to future generations.
Open all three volumes of Miss MF Lewis’ Mushrooms collected in Shropshire and other neighborhoods in the Internet Archives:
Through Public Domain Reviews
John Cage Had a Shocking Mushroom Obsession (Started From Poverty During the Depression)
How the Time-Lapse Mushroom was Filmed: A Glimpse of the Pioneering Time-Lapse Cinematography Behind Netflix’s Fantastic Documentary
Beautifully Illustrated Mushroom Atlas: Edible, Suspect, and Poisonous (1827)
Algerian Cave Paintings Suggest Humans Made Magic Mushrooms 9,000 Years Ago
– Swing Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of Inky East Village zines and authors, latest, from Creative, Unknown: The Little Potato Manifesto. Follow him @AyunHalliday.