The Valley of Flowers

The Valley of Flowers

October, 2018
F. S. (Francis Sydney) Smythe, 1900-1949.
Publication Information: 
London: Hodder and Stoughton
Special Collections Mountaineering Collection
Call Number: 
DS485.B505 S6 1947

The Valley of Flowers is a high-altitude “hanging” valley in the West Himalayan mountains known for its meadows and lush herbaceous flowering plants and colorful wild flowers.  Though known regionally from ancient times for its spiritual and meditative benefits, it was not until 1931, when six British mountaineers passed through the area, that the outside world discovered it. Awestruck by its beauty, they named it the “Valley of Flowers.” 

One of those mountaineers was Frank Smythe, who returned to the valley in the summer of 1937 to explore the area, collect seeds, bulbs, tubers and plants anew, record his adventure and gather them into The Valley of Flowers. First published in 1938, the first and limited edition included packets of seeds, anticipated to grow in the private gardens of England. The writing is rich and detailed, enhanced also by Smythe’s photographic work, bringing nature and travel writing together for a delightful read.

WWU’s copy of the book included a serendipitous find with the bookplate of Adams Carter attached to the front flyleaf. Adams Carter (1914-1995) was another great mountaineer, writer, high school foreign language teacher, and book collector. He too had experience with a HimalayanBook cover for Adams Carter expedition, having joined a British-American climb to Mount Nandevi (India) in 1936 while still a Harvard student. Adams also excelled as a skier on the slopes and was a member of the United States Ski Team, competing in both the Alpine World Skiing Championships in 1937 and the Pan-American Championships in 1938. During World War II as a civilian, he helped create the 10th Mountain Division and train its members. In addition, he was an officer of the American Alpine Club (1954 to 1958) and long-time editor of their journal, the American Alpine Journal (1960-1995).

The book is a new acquisition and part of a new collecting scope for Special Collections on mountaineering, selections from which are featured in a new exhibit, "To the Mountaintop: A Social History of Mountaineering." For more information see the news release. Come check it out!

Tamara Belts

Special Collections Manager