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Sunday, 26 January 2020

Book Review - The Gardener's Botanical - Princeton University Press

     Every so often a book comes along that represents sheer delight just to look at, before you ever get into the content. This is such a book.



     The editorial team responsible for this work deserve the highest praise. There is no dust jacket, and the canvas type of cover, combined with the stunning illustration at the right, immediately transports one back to the fine flower books of the nineteenth century. In an instant one is captivated and experiences a mood shift from the mundane to the sublime.
     And this impression is both reinforced and enhanced as page after page yields artwork that hearkens back to the glorious illustrations of renowned floral artists like P. J. Redouté. The style is reminiscent of Redouté and a comparable level of inner warmth is generated by the pictures. I freely confess to leafing through the book when I first received it, page by page, and finding myself awash in the pleasure of the artwork. I confidently predict that I will do this over and over again.



     The actual purpose of the book is to explain the history of binomial nomenclature, the practical use of the system, and its current application, which is basically unchanged since Linnaeus devised it in his Species Plantarum of 1753. Due credit is given to the advances in classification brought about by DNA analysis and the name changes which have resulted from molecular work. 
     The main body of the work consists of a breakdown of the Latin names for plants, arranged alphabetically, each section beginning with a glorious illustration of a flower intertwined into the capital letter. 
     

     There then follows an explanation of every term used, both generic and specific, and a whole world of fascination awaits the reader. Consider a couple of examples: Abelia Named after Clarke Abel (1780 - 1826), British surgeon and naturalist (Caprifoliaceae); and, pomeridianus pomeridiana, pomeridanium, Flowering in the afternoon, as in Carpanthea pomeridiana.




     It is a veritable treasure trove of information from the very first page to the final exquisite illustration of a Dahlia. And even the inner front and back covers are filled with eye-pleasing leaves, stems and ferns. This book delivers satisfaction and deep pleasure on every single page.
     The index of common names links the vernacular to the scientific and the format used is bold and striking and makes for very easy reading.
     Ross Bayton, a former editor of the BBC's Gardener's World assembled this majestic work of reference, with introductory essays by John David, Head of Horticultural Taxonomy, Royal Horticultural Society, Brent Elliott, Royal Horticultural Society Librarian (retired), Alastair Culham, Curator of the University of Reading Herbarium, and James Armitage, Editor of The Plantsman. A stellar group indeed.
     Some books find their way to your shelf and barely make the journey off them again. I guarantee that will not happen with this work. Better buy two copies for one might become dog-eared from repeated use!

Selected images from The Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names - with more than 5,000 entries by Ross Bayton. 
Copyright © 2020 by Quarto Publishing plc. Published by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission.
Hardcover - US$29.95 - 9780691200170 - 352 pages - 350 colour drawings - 8 1/2 in. x 11 in.
Publication date: 25 February 2020

56 comments:

  1. This book, probably a best seller by now, seems to be an invaluable guide to practical gardening on solid, botanical grounds. And it has lots of vivid pictures.
    Your review is concise, useful, and impressive!

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  2. What a great book, David! Maybe I can also find this book in the Netherlands ... I am interested in flowers, but the drawings of the flowers interested me too! Are very inspiring ...

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  3. Hello, David, This book does look like gardener's delight. The cover and the illustrations are beautifully done. Great review! Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend. PS, thank you for today's visit and comment.

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  4. Hi David - that looks to be a delightful book to have access to ... gorgeous illustrations and I see it's instigation is of British origin. Ross Bayton looks to have produced some interesting 'garden' books. I'll have to keep an eye out when I'm up in appropriate places in London - usually museums for me - to check out this book ... it'll appear somewhere ... as the authors/contributors have those sorts of connections.

    I did go to my shelves and found a book on Linnaeus - which I shall now read ... especially as the author Wilfrid Blunt (1901 - 1987) is a brother of one of our (art) WW2 spies: Anthony Blunt. The Blunts were all artistic.

    Your post also sent me off to look for two two books my mother won as prizes at school in 1935 or so (aged 15/16) ... and the Cornish author (Charles Alexander Johns) - another interesting trip down a history lane. Flowers of the Field, and for you - British Birds in their Haunts - my Ma had lost one of the two books ... but c/o 'this thing' ... with a search and quick push of a button, I found a copy of about the same date to give to her - this was before she realised the power of the internet ... she was delighted to have 'her prize' restored to her shelves.

    Our copy here in the UK has the Royal Horticultural Society Logo on the cover, whereas I see yours is slightly different - same colours and flower (I think a Japanese Anemone) - fascinating book ... I now must do some reading ... you've sent me off on an historical track through various disciplines.

    Delightful post - cheers Hilary

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    1. Enjoy your searching, Hilary. Some of those old books are such treasures.

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  5. Beautiful drawings. I have always had an affinity for vintage botanical art. Remembering the Latin names is challenging but I imagine when paired with such gorgeous art, they are easier to recollect.

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  6. Very beautiful flower drawings in this book, David!
    Have a lovely day,

    Ida

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  7. This book reminds me of Audubohn's paintings, I saw the original book when visiting one of the plantation houses 'dahn sahth', I can't remember which one now. But the bird illustrations were so beautiful just as these flowers are. I wonder now if the book, which was huge, was an original or a copy. It was a huge book.

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    1. Hi Jo: It may well have been one of the few originals left, which are excessively valuable these days. Audubon's paintings were all life size, thus huge for cranes, herons, eagles etc. The accompanying foliage was as you say, exquisite, but I think that Audubon employed others to do this part of the work. I have books of Audubon's pictures if ever you would like to see them.

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    2. I bet they are valuable. I would love to see your books, I was fascinated by the detail although not too happy when I discovered how he got that detail. I remember the plantation had hosted Audubon himself and that there was a marshy area which he investigated thoroughly I understood.

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  8. What a beautiful book! I would love to try to sketch some of these! Love your banner too! Happy weekend!

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  9. Por lo que veo, es un libro muy interesante .

    Todo está muy detallado y con muy buena comprensión.

    Besos

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  10. How exquisite. It is like the Audubon books. The detail so fine.

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  11. Very definitely eye candy.
    A book I would also open again and again, not least for the pleasure of the artwork.
    This sounds like a very, very worthy addition to your groaning book shelves.

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  12. Great read. And, I do love the Black-throated Green Warbler header.

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  13. A book to come back to over and over. The drawings are beautiful too!

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    1. I am sure that everyone who sees it will treasure it and consult it frequently, Marleen.

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  14. ¡¡Que gran libro amigo David!! Que pena no saber inglés, pero me da igual, tengo que hacerme con un ejemplar, mi hijo el pequeño habla perfectamente inglés, cuando quiera alguna traducción ya se la pediré.
    Muchas gracias por compartir esa belleza.
    Un fuerte abrazo mi querido amigo y compadre David.

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    1. You do very well in English, amigo Juan, much better than I in Spanish. It is great, however, that your son will be able to act as translator for you. It is a fine book.
      Un fuerte abrazo.

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  15. Hari OM
    Got your message - and no, this post has not shown up in my listing... hope this is just a temporary glitch! Lovely book... YAM xx

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    1. Thanks, YAM. I am pretty sure this will not recur.

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  16. Very nice post - trying on my other computer. For some reason my Google profile is not showing up properly on the other machine! SM

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  17. David, this book is splendid. It's an inspiration to me as an artist even more than as a botanical fan and I know it would be a treasure for a gardener.

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  18. A book which every serious gardener would love to possess. Happy new week!

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  19. Hello, David,
    I'm glad to find your post about this beautiful book review. Maybe the book will be translated into Russian and it appeares on my book shelf.
    Yes, this your last post wasn't indexed by Blogpost. I don't see it on my blog. Opening only your previous one I have found "book review' in Blog archive.
    Sometimes it happens when one changes the date of issue.

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  20. Hi David, I thought I did leave a comment on this post. Great review and book. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy new week!

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  21. First, in response to Jeanie's post about your posting problems: this did show up in my RSS reader without any difficulty. I only was slow in getting here.

    The artwork truly is beautiful, but any book that deals creatively with binomial nomenclature appeals to me. This obviously is one to be purchased and put on the shelves -- but not too far away! I suspect it could serve as a reference book as well as a visual delight to be enjoyed.

    I suspect you haven't read my parody of a bit of T.S. Eliot called "The Naming of Plants." You can find it here. I read it now and then myself, just for grins.

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  22. Hello David,

    Your post about this didn't come in my blogfeed, and I don't know why. I read about it in Nadezda's blog.

    It's a very beautiful book. I have two books with latin words, but I think I'll need this one too ;)

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  23. Sounds like a beautiful book David. I love the illustrations.

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  24. I'm back again to check on you! Looks like most everyone has found your post now! Beautifully written!

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  25. What beautiful illustrations!

    First time viewer, came over from the Marmalade Gypsy to find out if you found a solution for your technical issue of your posts not updating in blogrolls because I have the same issue!

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    1. I really haven't nailed down exactly what caused the problem, but it is not solved. I know it has something to do with rescheduling the post, but other than that I am basically clueless. In any event, thanks to Jeanie's wonderful intervention many people have found me now, so I hope this is a one-time problem and there will be not be a recurrence. I have never had this issue before. Thanks for coming by.

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    2. You might be right because the post of mine that didn't show on blog rolls was rescheduled too. I have a new one coming up on Wednesday so that theory will be tested.

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  26. My "live-in gardener" would love this book. Thanks for the review. The artwork alone is gorgeous!

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  27. Your description of this book makes it very tempting to me, David. However, I am awaiting publication/delivery of a couple of other books and also have Lindsay's Christmas present - a large book on moths - which I have not delved into yet, so I might just have to let this one pass! On the other hand ................

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  28. Thanks for the recommendation, David.

    I take it from seeing this post in my blogroll that you originally were writing it, hadn't set the date on it for publishing, and then clicked publish before you were finished preparing it. Thus it ends up showing up again in the blogroll when you did have it go live- only it doesn't show up at that time, it shows up a week earlier.

    If it happens again, I would suggest a fresh post with a link to the one that you were going to post.

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    1. You describe the situation exactly, William. Thanks for the good advice.

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  29. Hello David.
    What a great book, so beautiful.
    They are real pieces of art piece by piece.
    This is really enjoying.
    Greetings Tinie

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  30. A great book! I will enjoy those all pictures and learn about those plants.

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  31. The book is gorgeous. I like looking at this kind of books. Last time I went to Kew Gardens in London I got a book about plants. Sadly I'm not great with taking care of actual plants.

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  32. WOW....great book. Loving the pics.

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  33. Tiene muy buenas ilustraciones, que lo hace muy atractivo.

    BEsos

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  34. Thanks for bringing this book to our attention David. Your eloquent description fits this book to a T! Also, it's a great reference book for people who want to start or expand their garden as it is an inspiration to go through this book.

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  35. Such a fabulous book, the artwork is exquisite.
    Thanks for reviewing it here.

    All the best Jan

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  36. Piękna książka. Lubie takie wartościowe dzieła. Lubie oglądać botaniczne rysunki.

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  37. The drawings are works of art.

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  38. Whatever the style may be, that is a rich possession anyway :-)))) Also a flower book is a valuable addition to everything that grows in nature and blooms. nice review David :-)
    Greetings, Helma

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  39. Me parece un libro precioso, me encantaría tener uno. Besos.

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  40. This sounds like a book for me (and I already put it on my amazon wishlist after I had read your post). Having studied Latin for five (long) years in high school I have been able to put together and explain some of the Latin names, but this seems to be an in-depth look at it, and the fine illustrations are the cream on top. I also didn't know the part of how DNA is changing plant names - interesting!

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    1. I too took five years of Latin in school, Carola, and have never regretted it. It has served me well both scientifically and lexically. I think it also facilitated the discipline of thinking logically. As for the book, it is really quite wonderful.

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