The general collection consists of more than 160,300 volumes of monographs and journals. More than 2,000 current periodicals are received through subscription and on exchange. The main emphasis of the collection is on plant taxonomic literature, current and retrospective, collected in all languages.
The reference collection contains more than 3,000 volumes of reference works, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, indexes, and bibliographies.
Sturtevant Pre-Linnaean Collection
The Sturtevant Pre-Linnaean Collection includes works from 1474 to 1753 and is named for E. Lewis Sturtevant, a botanist and agriculturist who donated his personal collection of 463 volumes in 1892. This collection is important because it contains many herbals and other works that are among the earliest attempts to classify plants systematically. It is called "pre-Linnaean" because the books were published prior to Carl Linnaeus's Species Plantarum, wherein binomial nomenclature was used consistently for the first time. The collection has grown to more than 1000 volumes.
The Linnaean Collection contains more than 900 volumes by Carl Linnaeus, revisions of his works, and his students' works.
Post-1753 Rare Book Collection
The Post-1753 rare book collection contains more than 3,000 books. Examples of holdings include most editions of Michaux's and Nuttall's North American Sylva; Darwin's works in various editions, including the first printing of the first edition of On the Origin of Species; George Engelmann's botanical works; accounts of many pre-1850 voyages and explorations; and the first octavo edition of Audubon's Birds of America.
Several rare books have been digitized and are currently on-line.
The folio collection of more than 1,000 volumes is important for its many full-size plant illustrations and its research value to the history of natural history. Included in the folio collection is Banks' Florilegium, a limited edition of 738 engravings made from eighteenth-century copper plates that record the botanical discoveries made on Captain Cook's first voyage.
The Ewan Collection, purchased by the Garden in 1986, includes the research materials, personal papers, and 11,000 volumes assembled by Joseph Ewan, eminent historian of natural history. The collection is especially strong in the history of natural history, biography, and exploration, and it includes many rare or unique items.
The Steere Collection consists of more than 1,000 titles on bryology (the study of mosses), as well as about 2,000 pamphlets and reprints. It is named for William Campbell Steere, from whom it was purchased in 1977. The library's bryology holdings comprise one of the world's finest bryological literature collections.
The Niederlander Collection contains more than 600 volumes about books, including works on the history of printing and bookbinding and manuals on book conservation. It is named for Donald R. Niederlander, who was a dedicated volunteer in the Garden's conservation center for many years.
The art collection contains 7,000 items of botanical art, including watercolors, oils, sketches, prints, important reproductions, posters, and manuscript leaves.
Map and Atlas Collection
The map and atlas collections contain more than 7,000 items, including topographic, vegetation, and climatologic maps, with the emphasis on South America, southern Africa, and Missouri.
The vertical file consists of pamphlets, brochures, and other ephemera on more than 1,300 subjects related to botany, botanical gardens, and horticulture.
The microfiche collections contain more than 40,000 fiche. Included are the type-specimen collections of more than 30 herbaria and the Plant Taxonomic Literature Microfiche Collection of 5,000 titles based on Taxonomic Literature (second edition).