This issue of Arnoldia is devoted primarily to the world of nineteenth-century horticulture and botany, the milieu that shaped the Arnold Arboretum upon its founding in 1872. Yet, in some sense, the issue also represents the culmination of a twentieth-century vision for the magazine itself. Next year, as part of the Arnold Arboretum’s sesquicentennial celebration, Arnoldia will relaunch with a structure and approach that is dynamic and distinctly modern. The magazine will still appear in print every quarter and serve as a definitive source for novel and interdisciplinary research on trees, shrubs, and landscapes. Yet, an updated format will allow for new points of access—new kinds of content.
In the context of modern publishing, the production of a magazine like Gardener’s Monthly, which began in Philadelphia in 1859, seems almost inconceivable. Its editor, Thomas Meehan, would have exchanged feedback with authors on handwritten manuscripts. That much can be expected. More miraculous was the printing. The final manuscript would have been typeset by hand, each page composed of thousands of individual lead characters. Once a page was complete, a proofreader would review a test copy, marking errors as an assistant read the original manuscript aloud. According to a detailed account of the process for producing Harper’s Magazine, outlined in 1865, the initial proofs were often rife with errors. After all, the compositor prepared everything backward, in the inverse of the printed page. After corrections and additional proofing, the process would continue to the individuals responsible for operating the presses, folding machines, and so on—an elaborate, labor-intensive coordination of both mechanical and human power.1
The Arnold Arboretum’s first foray into magazine publishing was a monthly titled Garden and Forest. It debuted in 1888, weeks after Gardener’s Monthly ended. Charles Sprague Sargent, the first director of the Arboretum, oversaw the magazine for its ten-year run, but the editorial offices were in New York, a few blocks from the printer: Harpers and Brothers. (Harper’s Magazine was produced in the same building.) Arnoldia was born as The Bulletin of Popular Information in 1911, and for the next fifty-nine years, the periodical was typeset by hand, using the same basic method employed for Gardener’s Monthly. The final person to perform the tedium of creating Arnoldia word by word, line by line was Howard Allgaier, the printer for the Harvard University Botanical Museum. Allgaier began producing the publication in 1933, at the behest of Oakes Ames, the supervisor of the Arnold Arboretum. Ames, a bibliophile, was known to say that “a botanist’s research should be a jewel worthy of a proper setting.”2
Ames also widened the purview of the Bulletin. For its first two decades, the periodical had focused almost entirely on plants growing at the Arnold Arboretum, but in 1931, the format shifted to standalone, topical articles. Ames wrote several of these, including one on the botanical drawings of John Singer Sargent. His wife, Blanche Ames, began supplying botanical artwork of her own. The following year, their son coauthored an article about searching for beach plums (Prunus maritima) from an airplane. Authors would follow their wide-ranging lead. The name of the publication changed to Arnoldia in 1941, but otherwise, the structure and general approach remained the same.
In 1970, Arnoldia relaunched under the production of a new printer, the Harvard University Printing Office. At least through the end of the decade, Arnoldia was produced on “hot type” machines, which meant that the words were input on a keyboard and cast from lead on the spot.3 This mechanical process had emerged almost a century before, but perhaps owing to the relatively simple one-article format of Arnoldia, it had remained feasible for Allgaier to continue setting the type by hand. The change in printers coincided with a dramatic reimagining of Arnoldia—a project overseen by Stephanne Sutton, who took over the publication upon the retirement of Donald Wyman, the editor for twenty-nine years.4
The 1970 redesign was more than a visual makeover; it also brought new storytelling approaches. The 1960s is often considered an era of innovation in magazine publishing. Large general-interest magazines experienced circulation declines, attributed to the rise of television. (For instance, Life, which once claimed to reach the hands of one in four American adults, ceased publication in 1972.) At the same time, special-interest magazines began to proliferate.5 The redesign of Arnoldia firmly repositioned the magazine within this new publishing context. While Arnoldia had long hosted a diverse mix of subjects, authored mainly by horticultural professionals, it would thereafter contain multiple articles per issue and showcase a glossy image on the cover.
Over the next five decades, Arnoldia went through several visual updates. Among those milestones: the current logotype and dimensions debuted in 1982, and the first color photographs appeared on the interior pages in 2001. Behind the scenes, the modes of production changed dramatically, but our graphic designer, Andrew Winther, skillfully maintained the visual continuity. He began working on the magazine in 1986, while in the art department at the Office of the University Publisher. At that point, the office used offset lithography, and the printing plates were created from photographic negatives of the text and images. By the early 1990s, Winther began designing the layouts on a computer, and ultimately, every aspect of prepress production has gone digital as well.
Despite these changes, the basic architecture introduced in 1970 has endured, with each issue composed primarily of several long-form features. In 2022, when the redesigned Arnoldia launches, the feature articles that have long defined Arnoldia will remain central to each issue. But in the opening pages, we will provide a new, distinctive space for shorter narratives that capture behind-the-scenes experiences of working with plants in the twenty-first century. We’re also adding space for letters, to foster a public dialogue with you, our readers. In the back, we’re creating a department composed of essays and opinions. We’ll also incorporate contemporary artwork throughout the magazine, building on the legacy established by Blanche Ames ninety years ago.
With the first issue of Garden and Forest, published on February 29, 1888, Sargent and the other creators described their commitment to sharing “noteworthy discoveries” in the realm of science and horticultural practice. They promised that the magazine would “place scientific information clearly and simply before the public, and make available for the instruction of all persons interested in garden plants the conclusions reached by the most trustworthy investigators.” Articles would cover landscape gardening, forest conservation, entomology, and more. The authors would deal both in history and news. Here, looking into 2022, we’re doubling down on these longstanding commitments. Expect the first issue to arrive in March 2022.
1 Guernsey, A. H. 1865, December. Making the magazine. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 32(187): 1–31.
2 Allgaier, H. J. 1984. The printing shop. Botanical Museum Leaflets, Harvard University, 30(1): 48–50.
3 Ashton, P. S. 1980. The director’s report: The Arnold Arboretum during the fiscal year ended June 30, 1980. Arnoldia, 40(6): 238–293.
4 Howard, R. A. 1970. The director’s report: The Arnold Arboretum during the fiscal year ended June 30, 1970. Arnoldia, 30(6), 201–250.
5 Abrahamson, D. and Polsgrove, C. 2009. The right niche: Consumer magazines and advertisers. In D. P. Nord, J. S. Rubin, & M. Schudson (Eds.), A history of the book in America: Volume 5: The enduring book, print culture in postwar America (pp. 107–118). University of North Carolina Press.
Jonathan Damery is the editor of Arnoldia.
Citation: Damery, J. 2021. Arnoldia reimagined. Arnoldia, 78(5-6): 2–5.