Luther Burbank: His Methods and Discoveries, Their Practical Application
Luther Burbank: His Methods and Discoveries, Their Practical Application is one of the first sets of books published using color photography and is the most-extensive publication of the work of Luther Burbank (1849–1926).
Luther Burbank history
Luther Burbank: His Methods and Discoveries is a twelve-volume set published by the Luther Burbank Press in 1914 and 1915. The set was sold by subscription.
Each volume has 105 color photographs tipped in, for a total of 1260 photographs. The photos provide an extensive record of Burbank’s work in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol from 1875 to 1914.
The books apparently had at least six writers including Oscan Binner, Edward J. Wickson and Henry Smith Williams, M.D., LL.D. George Shull reported that “considerable sections are most word for word the same as my manuscript.” Further, Shull found the text wanting: "It appears to me a criminal waste of good paper... The colored plates will prove both interesting and valuable."
Sold by subscription, three quality levels of binding were offered: simple cloth, embossed cloth and leather.
The simple-cloth-bound edition was offered in multiple colors: red, blue, green and gold. Each volume has a black & white photo of Burbank inserted in the front of each cover. The books sold for $180 per set, “when $180 represented the earnings of two months’ work or longer.” 
In the same format as the simple-cloth-bound edition, a suede leather version was offered. The leather was light in weight and not nearly as sturdy as the full leather editions, below.
The embossed-cloth edition has a cherry design.
The leather-bound edition has a two-tree design with tall trees in panels separated by a blank panel on the front covers. The first volume is endorsed to its buyer and has an original signature of Luther Burbank.
An unusual leather-bound edition with a path scene with stone posts, a gate and trees on along the paths the covers was used for presentation purposes. These sets do not have the Luther Burbank signature.
Another unusual leather-bound edition has a grape vine with grapes on a T-trellis on the covers. These have very heavy (wood?) boards.
Special paper was prepared for the volumes which was watermarked “The Luther Burbank Press.”
The volumes are one of the first uses of color photography and color printing. Since a nationwide search failed to find suitable color printing technology, The Luther Burbank Press set up a photo-chemical laboratory using the process of Lumiere of Paris. The last volume has a section which describes how color photography and color printing is accomplished.
The twelve volumes are
Volume I (1914)
I. How the Cactus Got Its Spines – And How It Lost Them
II. Twenty-three Potato Seeds – And What They Taught
III. No Two Living Things Exactly Alike
IV. The Rivalry of Plants To Please Us
V. Let Us Now Produce a New Pink Daisy
VI. Short-Cuts Into Centuries to Come
VII. How Far Can Plant Improvement Go?
VIII. Some Plants Which Are Begging for Immediate Improvement
IX. Piecing the Fragments of a Motion Picture Film
Volume III (1914)
I. Planning A New Plant
II. Plant Affinities
III. Practical Pollination
IV. Quantity Production
V. Grafting and Budding
VI. Letting the Bees Do Their Work
VII. Fixing Good Traits
VIII. Recording the Experiments
IX. Final Selection
Volume IV (1914)
I. Quick Possibilities in Fruit Improvement
II. Practical Orchard Plans and Methods
III. Doubling the Productiveness of the Cherry
IV. The Responsiveness of the Pear
V. Fuzzy Peaches and Smooth-Skinned Nectarines
VI. The Apple – A Fruit Worthy of Still Further Improvement
VII. The Transformation of the Quince
VIII. The Apricot and the Loquat
IX. Citrus Fruits – And Fruits From the Tropics
Volume V (1914)
I. How the Plum Followed the Potato
II. Four Burbank Plums, and How They Were Made
III. The Greatest Plum of All – The Prune
IV. Four Burbank Prunes, and The Work Behind Them
V. Plums and Prunes Without Stones and Seeds
VI. Planning and Ideal Plum or Prune
VII. New Plums and Prunes in The Process of Making
VIII. What the Burbank Plums and Prunes Have Earned
IX. Accomplishing the Impossible – The Plumcot
Volume VI (1914)
I. The Thornless Blackberry – And Others
II. The Raspberry and Some Odd Crosses
III. Designing a Strawberry to Bear the Year Around
IV. The Sunberry – A Production from the Wild
V. A Dozen Other Delightful Berries
VI. Great Opportunities In the Grape
VII. The Cactus Pear – A Profitable Fruit
VIII. Some Inedible Fruits Which May Be Transformed
IX. The Need for Improving Small Fruits
Volume VII (1914)
I. How to Get the Most Out of the Garden
II. Some Common Garden Plants and Their Improvement
III. Peas and Beans as Money Crops
IV. The Tomato – and an Interesting Experiment
V. Pink Chives – and Other Foods for Flavor
VI. Artichokes – and Some Garden Specialties
VII. Winter Rhubarb – and Other Interesting Exotics
VIII. The Camassia – Will it Supplant the Potato?
IX. The Potato Itself – Who Will Improve It Further?
Volume VIII (1914)
I. Corn – The King of America’s Crops
II. Getting the Most Out of the Small Grains
III. Manufacturing Food for the Live Stock
IV. A Rich Field for Work on the Textile Plants
V. Plants Which Yield Useful Chemical Substances
VI. Reclaiming the Deserts with Cactus
VII. Rival of Alfalfa
VIII. Many Useful Substances in Cactus
IX. Other Useful Plants Which Will Repay Experiment
Volume IX (1914)
I. What to Work for in Flowers
II. Working With a Universal Flower – The Rose
III. Accomplishing the Impossible With the Amaryllis
IV. Bringing Forth an Entirely New Color
V. A Daisy Which Rivals the Chrysanthemum
VI. Making the Gladiolus Surpass Itself
VII. Experiminting With the Responsive Dahlia
VIII. The Canna and the Calia
IX. The Purest White in Nature
Volume X (1915)
I. Getting the Utmost Variation Out of A Flower
II. Improvement in the Much Improved Iris
III. The Tigridia and Some Interesting Hybrids
IV. Four Common Dooryard Flowers – And Their Improvements
V. The Everlasting Flower, and Some Common Exotica
VI. The Hybrid Larkspur – and Other Transformations
VII. Ornamental Palms and Climbing Vines
VIII. Laws and Their Beautification
IX. Field and Flower Garden
Volume XI (1915)
I. Nuts as a Profitable Crop
II. The Paper Shell, and Other Walnuts
III. The Almond – and Its Improvement
IV. The Chestnut – Bearing Nuts at Six Months
V. The Hickory Nut, and Other Nuts
VI. The On Growing Trees for Lumber
VII. The Production of a Quick-growing Walnut
VIII. Trees Whose Products are Useful Substances
IX. Trees and Shrubs for Shade and Ornamentals
Volume XII (1915)
I. Luther Burbank – His Boyhood on a Massachusetts Farm
II. Luther Burbank – The Early Years in Santa Rosa
III. Luther Burbank – His Patience Rewarded
IV. Luther Burbank – The Sum of His Work With Plant Life
V. Luther Burbank – The Bearing of His Work on Human Life
VI. The Luther Burbank Society
(includes Color Photography Explained)
How Plants are Trained to Work for Man
How Plants are Trained to Work for Man by Luther Burbank, Sc.D published in 1921 is clearly a rework of the 1914–1915 work.
The 1921 publication is in eight volumes in a single binding. Each volume contains 49 photographs printed on separate pages, not the tipped-in photos of the original.
All but two of the photographs in the 1921 volumes came from the 1914–1915 volumes. Generally, photographs in the first volumes of the early set are found in the first volumes of the later set, with this trend continuing to the last volumes.
The "Sc.D" is from the honorary doctor of science degree awarded Burbank by Tufts University in 1905.
- Smith, Jane S. (2009). The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants. The Penguin Press. pp. 214–216.
- Dreyer, Peter (1985). A Gardner Touched with Genius – The Life of Luther Burbank. University of California Press. pp. 194–195.
- Kraft, Ken; Kraft, Pat (1967). Luther Burbank – The Wizard and the Man. Meredith Press. p. 187.
- Burbank, Luther (1915). Luther Burbank: His Methods and Discoveries, Their Practical Application XII. Luther Burbank Press. p. 272.
- Burbank, Luther (1921). How Plants are Trained to Work for Man I. P. F. Collier & Son Company. p. 17.
- Burbank, Luther (1921). How Plants are Trained to Work for Man I. P. F. Collier & Son Company.
- One new photograph is of Luther Burbank and the other is of Mrs. Luther Burbank who was not married to Luther Burbank at the time of the 1914–1915 volumes.
- Von der Porten, Michael. "An Evaluation of Luther Burbank's 1914–1915 and 1921 Books". Retrieved January 10, 2013.
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