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Dorothy St. John Manks

Manks, Dorothy St. John, 1896-

Dorothy St. John Manks served for forty years as the librarian for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The library, housed at the historic Elm Bank estate in Wellesley, Massachusetts, was established in 1829, and by the time Manks became the librarian, Mass Hort was lauded by William Penn Rich as “the oldest, most complete, and best organized strictly horticultural library in the world.” Manks became the librarian in 1928, and she would stay in the position until 1968. Under her direction, the holdings continued to expand. She became a knowledgeable resource for both researchers as well as other institutions hoping to establish or strengthen a horticultural collection.

Dorothy Manks took her role as consultant seriously. Over the years, she compiled numerous bibliographies and wrote essays about important authors and texts. Some of her essays were published and circulated. According to current MassHort librarian Maureen Horn, Manks’ bibliographies and lists remain on file at the library today. In fact, the entire collection still bears the mark of Manks’ forty years of service. Manks created her own classification system, which was applied to the approximately 20,000 volumes. It is only in the past few years that MassHort has made any progress transitioning the library classification system into Library of Congress call numbers.

At Dumbarton Oaks, Beatrix Farrand and Anne Sweeney communicated with Dorothy Manks in the 1940s about suggested acquisitions for the new Garden Library. They received book lists from Manks, and when MassHort held sales of duplicates from the collection, Farrand looked into purchasing certain volumes.



“The Growth and Glory of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Library.” Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Accessed June 11, 2014.

Horn, Maureen. Interview by Katy Van Arsdale. Phone interview. Washington, D.C., May 30, 2014. 

“Massachusetts Horticultural Society Library.” Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Accessed June 11, 2014.