Charles Edward Faxon

Historical Biographies

Charles Edward Faxon

Photograph by W.J. Bather, Brooklyn, New York (Henry Havelock Pierce, Boston and New York).

Charles Edward Faxon (1846-1918)

Originally educated as a civil engineer, Charles Faxon went on to be an instructor in Botany at the Bussey Institution from 1879-1884. In the spring of 1882, Arboretum director Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927) asked Faxon to join his staff. Faxon spent the remainder of his career at the Arnold Arboretum as Assistant Director in charge of the library and herbarium until his death in 1918.

Faxon was also an astoundingly talented botanical artist and provided 744 illustrations for Sargent’s Silva of North America.

In his review of The Silva published in Atlantic Monthly in July 1903, John Muir wrote of Faxon’s work,

“At the first glance through the book, everyone must admire the fullness and beauty of the plates. They were made in Paris, from drawings from life, by Faxon, the foremost botanical artist in America . . . these are so tellingly drawn and arranged, [that] any one with the slightest smattering of botany is enabled to identify each tree, even without referring to the text.”

Faxon also prepared many hundreds of drawings for Sargent’s other publications: Manual of the Trees of North America (exclusive of Mexico) (1905), Forest Flora of Japan (1894), for the influential journal Garden and Forest (1888-1898). He provided many of the illustrations for Daniel Cady Eaton’s Ferns of North America (1879-1880). Thirteen of Faxon’s drawings were published in Rhodora, and three in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. Between 1879 and 1913, 1,825 of Faxon’s drawings were published.

Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Charles Edward Faxon (1846-1918) papers, 1882-1918 [pdf].

“Charles Edward Faxon, delineavit.” Arnoldia 46(3), 1986 [pdf].