Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/683

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THE BLASCHKA FLOWER MODELS.

THE BLASCHKA FLOWER MODELS OF THE HARVARD MUSEUM.
By MARCIA E. HALE.

THE Ware Collection of glass flower models in the University Museum of Cambridge is now so widely known and appreciated that a written introduction to it seems at first superfluous. Still, the fact remains that the interest and curiosity felt in regard to the history of the collection increase in proportion to its increasing fame.

Among the vast number of people who visit the exhibition rooms of the botanical department of the museum there must be few who do not feel on leaving that a revelation has been disclosed to them. The savant finds the rendering of the minutest details of vegetable organism almost inconceivably accurate, while the general public can hardly fail to derive from the beauty of these models an awakening interest in the mysteries of plant life.

Before considering the scope of the collection it might be well to examine the nature of the models themselves.

To the casual observer it seems almost incredible that these sprays of leaf and blossom—these magnified details of flower and fruit, true to Nature not only in form and color but also in texture—that these models before us should be made of glass. Not even the daintiest productions of the Venetian and Bohemian glass workers have prepared us for the delicacy and pliability which we find here, and it seems hardly necessary to state that the process employed in making these models is in no sense that of ordinary glass blowing. From the simpler methods of making window glass and bottles to the artistic fashioning of such work as this is a wide step, and it may be interesting to sketch incidentally a brief outline of the history of glass making.

The origin of this art, unlike that of pottery, seems to have spread from a single center, instead of having been discovered by different nations independently. The early history of the art is shrouded in the dim mists of tradition, but the ancients seem to agree in giving the credit of the invention to the Phœnicians.

The story is too well known to need repetition of the party of Phœnician merchants who, having kindled a fire on the banks of the river Belus, proceeded to cook their dinner in pots supported by blocks of niter (carbonate of soda) supplied from their stores, in place of the stones which this sandy region did not furnish. Under the heat of the flames the fusion of the alkali with the sand produced glass. Thus far tradition. The earliest known specimens of glass, however, are Egyptian, and there may be