Harry Dwight Dillon Ripley Papers (PP)

Archives, The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
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Bronx, New York 10458-5126
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This finding aid was produced in English.

Finding aid produced using NoteTab Pro

Collectors: Ripley, H. Dwight.
Title: Harry Dwight Dillon Ripley Papers (PP)
Dates: 1973-1978
Quantity: 1.6 linear feet; 3 boxes
Call Phrase: Ripley (PP)

Biography of Harry Dwight Dillon Ripley

Harry Dwight Dillon Ripley, noted linguist, plantsman, artist and author, was born in London on October 23, 1908. He began his plant explorations in the 1920s in Northern Africa and Spain with Rupert Barneby whom he met at Harrow where they both attended school. They collected plants to grow at the Spinney, Ripley’s home in Sussex, as well as specimens for herbaria. The 1,138 species in their garden are identified in A List of Plants Cultivated or Native at the Spinney, Waldron, Sussex (1939). In 1939, the two men moved to California and traveled extensively in Mexico and the western United States, again collecting plants for their garden and for herbaria. Ripley wrote numerous articles about these collecting trips that were originally published in the Quarterly Bulletin of the Alpine Garden Society (U.K.). Excerpts are reprinted in Impressions of Nevada: the countryside and some of the plants as seen through the eyes of an Englishman, an occasional paper of the Northern Nevada Native Plant Society (1978). Ripley and Barneby moved to New York in 1943 and they did not return to Sussex. Their plant collection at the Spinney was auctioned in 1951 with most of the rarities going to botanic gardens at Cambridge and Kew.

A respected artist, Ripley exhibited his drawings at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery in New York. He was the major financial contributor to the establishment of the Tibor de Nagy Art Gallery and had five one-man shows there. Ripley and Barneby built two large rock gardens at their homes in New York. first at Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County and subsequently in Greenport, Long Island. In 1974, Ripley and Barneby were honored with the American Rock Garden Society’s Marcel Le Piniec Award for their plant explorations and introduction of new rock garden species. Index Kewensis lists six species named after Ripley: Cymopterus ripleyi, Aliciella ripleyi, Astragalus ripleyi, Eriogonum ripleyi, Omphalodes ripleyana and Senna ripleyi, the first three of which he co-discovered with Rupert Barneby. Ripley, a cousin of the long-time Smithsonian director, S. Dillon Ripley, was fluent in more than 15 languages and dialects.

The extensive manuscript held in the archives of the NYBG, the Etymological Dictionary of Vernacular Plant Names, was nearing completion at the time of Ripley’s death on December 17, 1973.

Scope and Content

This collection consists entirely of one unpublished manuscript.


The collection is organized into one series:
Series 1: Etymological Dictionary of Vernacular Plant Names. Arranged alphabetically.


Access restrictions

This collection is open for research with permission from Mertz Library staff.


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be submitted in writing to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Barneby, Rupert C.
Ripley, H. Dwight -- Archives.
New York Botanical Garden Archives.
Plant names, Popular -- Dictionaries.
Plants -- Nomenclature -- Dictionaries.

Related Material

William Jewell College

Department of Biology

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Harry Dwight Dillon Ripley Papers (PP), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated to the New York Botanical Garden Archives.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Stephen Sinon, Assistant Archivist, June 2000. Converted into EAD in July 2006 by Kathleene Konkle under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA 50678-04).

Container List


Series 1. Etymological Dictionary of Vernacular Plant Names .

Scope and Content:

The manuscript begins with an explanatory note written by Rupert Barneby in 1978. The note states that the aim of the manuscript is to assemble a complete vocabulary of plant nomenclature developed by peoples of the European language family. As it stands, the dictionary is a way of locating common names for plant species and indicating their origin and meaning.

Box Title Date
1 Etymological Dictionary of Vernacular Plant Names 1973-1978
2 Etymological Dictionary of Vernacular Plant Names 1973-1978
3 Etymological Dictionary of Vernacular Plant Names 1973-1978

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