Field Study: Meditations on a Year at the Herbarium

Humphreys, Helen

  • “[A] delightful mix of memoir and field study.” — Publishers Weekly STARRED review

    Award-winning and beloved author Helen Humphreys discovers her local herbarium and realizes we need to look for beauty in whatever nature we have left — no matter how diminished

    Award-winning poet and novelist Helen Humphreys returns to her series of nature meditations in this gorgeously written and illustrated book that takes a deep look at the forgotten world of herbariums and the people who amassed collections of plant specimens in the 19th and 20th centuries. From Emily Dickinson’s and Henry David Thoreau’s collections to the amateur naturalists whose names are forgotten but whose collections still grace our world, herbariums are the records of the often-humble plants that are still with us and those that are lost. Over the course of a year, Humphreys considers life and loss and the importance of finding solace in nature.

    Illustrated throughout with images of herbarium specimens, Humphreys’s own botanical drawings, and archival photographs, this will be the perfect gift for Humphreys’s many fans, nature enthusiasts, and for all who loved Birds Art Life.


    Price may vary by retailer

    Check availability at your local Canadian independent bookstore:

    Remember that most stores can easily order books they don’t currently have in stock.


  • Helen Humphreys is the author of 19 works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, including Rabbit Foot Bill and The Frozen Thames. She has won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, a Lambda Literary Award for Fiction, and the Toronto Book Award, and has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award, the Trillium Book Award, and CBC’s Canada Reads. She is the recipient of the Harbourfront Festival Prize for literary excellence. Humphreys lives in Kingston, Ontario.

  • Published: September 2021

    ISBN: 9781770415348

    Dimensions: 5.25 x 7 in.

    Pages: 232

← Previous Product Next Product →


“[A] delightful mix of memoir and field study … In beautiful prose, Humphreys describes her experience acquainting herself with plants … Readers who appreciated Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s World of Wonders will revel in these gorgeous explorations.” — Publishers Weekly starred review

“A beautiful volume to appeal to the armchair gardener and historian alike. Based on a year studying plant samples collected over decades, she connects plant lovers from over the centuries and offers insight into nature’s tenacity.” — Toronto Star

“This book changed my perspective on herbaria … Humphreys sees the space as one where people and plants come together very intimately.” — Herbarium World

“A meditative journey into history through a green lens, Field Study is a must for nature lovers.” — Open Book

Field Study is a small, charming book that is beautifully illustrated and laid out. It is an enjoyable, easy read woven with anecdote and poetic symbolism … Helen Humphreys’ honesty and openness in taking us on her journey is the book’s charm. I recommend it to all who love nature, and especially to those who seek to promote botany and collections and to inspire others to study plants.” — Canadian Botanical Association Bulletin

“Beautifully written and adorned with images from specimens collected by Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau, this book is dedicated in part to talking about and imagining the lifestyles of the collectors, from famous botanists to housewives whose names remain a mystery.” — Green Teacher

“Her pages glow with plant samples, lichen as lacy-bright as the day they were found, orchids sadly faded to brown.” — Toronto Star

“Beautifully illustrated, it will be a perfect companion when you slouch in your armchair next to the Christmas tree for an evening read. A meticulously researched story of plants collected and people behind them; all based on herbarium labels, margin notes, scribbles, sketches, drawings and old photographs, but mostly the plant specimens themselves.” — Field Botanists of Ontario

“It’s filled with fascinating lore and detail, yet it’s also a profoundly meditative book: an elegant, quiet, and compelling record of one woman’s journey into past and present, the outside world and her own imagination.” — Society Nineteen Journal

“The elegant satiny pages are beautifully illustrated with archival photographs of several of the specimens donated by Ernst Haeckel, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, the author herself, and many unnamed contributors. Stories from the herbarium bring to mind the lost art of collecting and pressing plants as a way of preserving memories. This exquisite little book reminds us of this lost art.” — City Book Review

“This book is an easy read and a good place to find solace and hope for the future.” — Toronto Botanical Garden’s Trellis Magazine

“In the pages of Field Study, you will find not only fascinating information about plants and collectors, but a sense of the essential connection we all need to the natural world around us.” — Parry Sound North Star