32 pounds. 3,500 pages. 16,000+ apples.
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but three decades on a Wisconsin orchard drove horticulturist Dan Bussey into an apple-scented obsession that ended with the last page of his entirely comprehensive, seven-volume encyclopedia on the history and taxonomy of apples in North America.
Now, the result of his efforts is one of the most accurate and meticulous pomological encyclopedias. Ever.
Pomology is the science of growing fruit, one of the four major areas of horticulture. One field of pomology deals with heirloom vegetables, or seeds of vegetable varieties that have been passed down through generations of families and which generally grow and mature the same way, fruit after fruit.
Bussey, now 64, began documenting apple varieties he discovered in his orchard in Edgerton, WI in the 1980s because their variety and history intrigued him. He was dismayed by the decline in heirloom varieties and by the lack of comprehensive source material available to him, so he began to casually keep his own record of the information he aggregated.
“Some have interesting stories,” Bussey told Atlas Obscura. “I really love the names.” Bussey did not entirely dismiss the idea that he might be a little too obsessed with apples, but his potential mania is clearly backed by positive results.
Bussey published The Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada with JAK KAW Press in 2016. The multi-volume collection features historic watercolors from the National Agricultural Library. In 2018, Bussey won The Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries’ 2018 Annual Literature Award “for a significant work in botanical or horticultural literature.” According to JAK KAW’s website, the pomological expert has another passion in “preserving horse-drawn sleighs, wagons, and hearses.” Unsurprisingly, he is currently writing several works on carriage history.
Read Bussey’s 2014 interview with The New York Times here.
The Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada is seven volumes short and now on sale for a jaw-dropping $220.
Featured Image Via Atlas Obscura/U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection.