Editor’s Note: This cross-posting is part of a series featuring items from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo collection recently acquired by Harvard University’s Houghton Library. Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager, Gretchen Wade, and Judith Warnement of Harvard’s Botany Libraries for contributing the original post at Houghton’s Modern Books and Manuscripts blog.
What to do if you are looking for the “ultimate guide for safe mushroom picking”? Frank and Cheeri Rinaldo had the answer in 1979 with Safe-pik, a flip book of handy mushroom identification cards featuring photographs by John W. Allen. Measuring only about 2 1/2 by 4 inches it could easily fit in your pocket and deals mainly with Psilocybins, the type of mushrooms that contain a naturally occurring psychedelic compound. There is a helpful disclaimer that children should not take mushrooms, one should never trespass, and that mushrooms should be used for the purpose they were intended … mind expansion.
Visual identification of mushrooms is hardly a new concept, as seen by the German publication Naturgeschichte des Pflanzenreiches in Bildern by Dr. Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert.
Schubert was a 19th-century German physician, naturalist, and professor in Munich. Naturgeschichte des Pflanzenreiches in Bildern is the botanical part of a textbook set, Lehrbuch der Naturgeschichte, that includes additonal plates. The beautiful hand-colored lithographic plates help to identify and educate the reader to also expand their mind … though perhaps the intent was not to do so in quite the same way as the Rinaldos’.
Mushrooms may have an even greater role, according to contemporary mycologist Paul Stamets, who states that they play a vital role in the survival of both earth and the human race. Stamets has published many books including Mycelium running: how mushrooms can help save the world. Stamets briefly explains the connection between mushrooms and survival in an amazing video excerpt featuring time-lapse footage of mushrooms from the documentary Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit.
The Botany Libraries holds a number of botanical items from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection, such as these 17th-century poppy plant illustrations.