The digitization of all 13,000 printed pages of the combined 95 years of Arnoldia and its often overlooked predecessor, The Bulletin of Popular Information, offers a wealth of information on everything plant-wise from Abeliophyllum to Zelkova and acorns to Yorkshire.
The Arboretum's first director, Charles Sprague Sargent saw The Bulletin of Popular Information as a way to alert visitors to the "flowering of important plants" in the Arboretum's living collections. Initially, The Bulletin was issued only during the growing season and it provided a seasonal guide to information about plants acquired for the Arboretum from China by the famous plant explorer, Ernest Henry "Chinese" Wilson and it was mailed, without charge and with the Director's compliments, to any interested party. Sargent produced the first number of The Bulletin on May 2, 1911. It followed very quickly on another new publication, the first Guide to the Arnold Arboretum, which made its debut on April 26. In this 33-page booklet Sargent described the collections and included a map of the grounds showing the position of all the roads, walks, and groups of trees. A foldout map of the local roads and the steam and electric railroad lines supplemented written directions on how to reach the Arboretum.
From 1911 until 1926, beginning early in April and typically ending with one number in November, Sargent wrote four pages each week "in popular language, [containing] authentic information about the plants in bloom or otherwise worthy of special visits." With Sargent's guidebook and map and one of his Bulletins in hand there was no reason to miss the flowering or fruiting of any plant on the grounds.
After Sargent's death in March 1927, Ernest Henry Wilson undertook The Bulletin, publishing that year's first number on April 23. Other than the addition of more illustrations, the publication continued to be a seasonal guide filled with information on the phylogeny, history, and culture of the Arboretum's plants. It was not until Wilson's own untimely death in 1933 that the content began to expand. Edgar Anderson, best known for his later work at the Missouri Botanic Garden, edited the publication for the next four years and while "plants of current interest" remained a regular feature, staff members began to contribute longer articles: Ernest J. Palmer wrote "Trees Used by the Pioneers" and "Indian Relics of the Arnold Arboretum" and Hugh Raup contributed "Injurious Effects of Winds in the Arnold Arboretum" and "Notes on the Early Uses of Land Now in the Arnold Arboretum."
Donald Wyman took over the editorship in 1936, and in 1941 Director Elmer Drew Merrill, who was partial to one-word titles, changed The Bulletin of Popular Information into Arnoldia, honoring benefactor James Arnold. Wyman wrote the lion's share of its articles for over 30 years. A remembrance in 1993 recognized his contribution to the literature: "More, perhaps, than any other single person, certainly of his era, he advanced the knowledge of hardy woody plants through his articles published in Arnoldia and elsewhere . . . His work may now seem familiar, but only because it's been so often imitated."
After his retirement, other editors have sought out the best authors, expanded the content, modernized the design, added color, variety, scholarship, and style, and along the way created a unique and highly acclaimed publication.