Thursday, November 13, 2014

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Flora Illustrata is an intellectual and aesthetic feast for both gourmands and gourmets of gardens, and will satisfy many other tastes as well; within these pages are history and science--the history of science, of art, of botany and pharmacy, of gardens and garden design, of book illustration and production; even the history of museum and library curation, philanthropy, and civic life. In short, here we have a work to celebrate and cherish for many years to come, and an example of the elegant perfection that can ensue when people of different disciplines collaborate to create; this is a work of love as well as of art and science, engaging all the senses as well as the mind.

Honestly, Miss Em is trying not to be giddy, but it's not working. She was unaware, growing up in the wilds, that one can travel a mere two thousand miles to New York's Botanical Garden and be almost as happy as traveling the 5,000 miles to Kew Gardens in London. She was unaware of the presence of these rich treasures of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden, acquired in those dizzying years of the expanding American Empire, reaching back to Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis historia (1483), to especially rare  etchings of the water gardens at Villa Pratolino in Florence (1600s), to books that depict the exploration of South America. Flora Illustrata highlights key works spanning more than eight centuries, from rare manuscripts and iconic books to Renaissance herbals, precious botanical drawings, elegant engravings, explorers’ notebooks, and more.  Lilies and lettuces, librarians and landscape theorists, explorers, scientists, philanthropists and shopkeepers, the history of New York and the world--all glimpsed and touched upon in these pages.

Flora Illustrata was created in order to highlight the astounding and not-so-well-known collection of the Mertz Library, and there's an exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden from Nov 15, 2014-Jan 19, 2015 to celebrate the publication.
For those who go and those who can't, Flora Illustrata is an exhibition in itself, lavishly illustrated, beautifully written and edited to create prose that flows instead of "scholar-speak." Yet the authors' and editors' love of scholarship shows through, making this a perfect book for both coffee table and research collections, to be treasured for years to come.

What a perfect gift for book people, plant people, artists and antiquarians. Hint, hint. (Miss Em's giddiness was caused by a digital edition of the book provided for review.)