QBARS - v33n2 Rhododendrons of China

Rhododendrons Of China
Joint Translation and Publication Venture
Ken Gambrill, Rhododendron Species Foundation

Just one year ago, Dr. August Kehr reviewed a book which had attracted his interest by virtue of its containing descriptions and line drawings of 278 species of rhododendrons native to China (p. 91, Vol. 32, No. 2 ARS Bulletin). The book containing these descriptions and original drawings, along with a botanical key from the genus to the species level, is part of an eight volume set produced in Peking on the flora of China. Unfortunately for us, the text is in Chinese, with only the universally accepted Latin names recognizable. A combination of fortuitous occurrences and unprecedented cooperation among several rhododendron organizations promise to remedy this frustrating situation.

Soon after Dr. Kehr retuned from China with volumes of this work in 1977, he began seeking a means for translating the section on rhododendrons. However, attempts to arrange for the work to be done by Beltsville scientists were unsuccessful and, in the absence of a tangible scheme for translation, organizations refrained from committing funds.

Fortunately, one reader of Dr. Kehr's review was as ardent a student of the Chinese language as an enthusiast for the genus Rhododendron. Mrs. Judith Y. Young of Seattle contacted Dr. Kehr, obtained a copy of the Chinese book and proposed to work with her language instructor, Mr. Lu-sheng Chong, and accomplish the translation. By late August, 1978, Dr. Kehr was preparing to approach the ARS Research Foundation for a grant to begin the project.

At the same time, Mrs. Young informed the Rhododendron Species Foundation of her desire to translate the new work on Chinese species. Soon convinced of the value of this information becoming available in English, the RSF contacted Dr. Kehr and proposed to sponsor the translation in order to allow the work to begin without delay and to assume responsibility for raising the money which, in addition to the anticipated grant from the Research Foundation, would be needed to complete the translation. Dr. Kehr accepted this proposal and agreed to become a member of the RSF Publications Committee in early October. At the RSF a schedule for translation and payment was established with Mrs. Young and Mr. Chong, inquiries into possible copyright complications were made and preliminary publication cost estimates were sought. Individuals and organizations in Seattle, Tacoma and Portland areas responded enthusiastically and generously to RSF requests for donations. After hearing of the translation project, Dr. Roy Taylor, Director of the University of British Columbia Botanic Garden, informed the RSF that UBC had undertaken its own project to translate and publish the botanical key to the rhododendron section of the Chinese work. But, convinced that it would be of more value as part of a more complete book, he agreed to furnish the nearly completed translation to the RSF for inclusion in its contemplated publication.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, the Research Foundation agreed to grant funds for one-half of the estimated cost of the translations. Concurrently at the October 28 ARS Board of Directors' meeting, Dr. Kehr proposed that the ARS sponsor publication of the translated material, not realizing that such a move would conflict with RSF plans for the whole project.

Three months of letters and phone calls finally succeeded in clearing the resulting confusion and, at times, consternation among the parties. The RSF staff worked with Dr. Brockenbrough to design a suitable arrangement for a cooperative venture for presentation at the February ARS Board of Directors' meeting. At this San Francisco meeting the board gave unanimous support to the plan and agreed with the RSF to establish the ICS ( Iconographia Cormophytorum Sinicorum ) Project Group with members Esther Berry, Janet Binford, Lu-Sheng Chong, Kendall Gambrill, Karen Gunderson, August Kehr, Keith Wade and Judy Young, with authority to publish and distribute a hard-bound volume containing the translated species descriptions with the best possible reproductions of the line drawings, plus the translated botanical key and a listing of botanical terms with Chinese equivalents at a cost not to exceed $20,000; funding to be provided equally by the ARS and RSF; the group to be headquartered at the RSF office and coordinated by RSF staff; and proceeds, after expenses, to be divided equally between the ARS and RSF.

The translation work is proceeding well and sufficient donations and pledges have been obtained to assure that it can continue without interruption until its contemplated completion in early fall. If publication plans also follow on schedule, before little more than another year has passed, we shall have available an English translation for distribution and the tantalizing prospect of new information on rhododendrons from China will be satisfied.