Ravenel Letters Available Online

331px Henry_William_RavenelTwo hundred and thirty-four original letters from the Henry William Ravenel  Correspondence (Mss 105) in Clemson University Library’s Special Collections and Archives are included in a recent website: Plants and Planter: Henry William Ravenel and the Convergence of Science and Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century South.

Ravenel was a nineteenth century South Carolina planter who studied and wrote about scientific agriculture, soil analysis and botany, particularly mycology (the study of fungi). He became a leading authority on American fungi, with the five-volume set of dried fungal specimens he collected, Fungi Caroliniani Exsiccati (1853-1860) and his contributions to the eight-volume series Fungi Americani Exsiccati (London, 1878-1882) with English botanist M.C. Cooke.

Clemson’s Henry William Ravenel correspondence includes letters from leading American and European botanists and agriculturists, such as Alvan Wentworth Chapman, Mordecai Cubitt Cooke and Moses A. Curtis, as well as two letters from Thomas Green Clemson while he was head of the Agricultural Division of the U.S. Patent Office in 1860.  The letters were donated by a Ravenel family member in 1931.

The Plants and Planter project digitally unites over 6,000 botanical specimens collected by Ravenel with his extensive manuscripts, journals, correspondence and photo album.  Visitors to the website can search and read his manuscripts, journals and correspondence and view related specimens. Maps show where Ravenel’s correspondence originated as well as trace his 5,000 mile two-month journey to investigate the causes of “Texas Cattle Fever.”

Plants and Planter was a collaborative effort by librarians, archivists, botanists, curators, conservators, imaging specialists, web developers and GIS specialists from University of South Carolina, Converse College, Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.