Book Review: The Golden Age of Flowers

The Golden Age of Flowers: Botanical Illustration in the Age of Discovery 1600-1800

By Celia Fisher

Today is also World Book and Copyright Day, so I felt a book review fitting.

The introduction to this book is extremely interesting. Within a few pages the author has helped me to finally put some of these famous names into perspective: Linnaeus, Clusius, Tradescant, Banks, to name but a few.  These plant hunters, collectors, botanists and merchants played a decisive role in what we see in our gardens today. Thanks to Celia Fisher, I now know that Clusius was around in the 16th century, and Linnaeus in the 18th!  Linnaeus was the man who brought order to plant names, and thus a man I wish to learn more about. Above all, I have become hungry for further information! Now I know what I want to research and read more about.

However, the main body of this book is a collection of over a hundred botanical drawings from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Here is an example:

These beautiful works of art are accompanied by a brief outline of where the plants originated and when/how they came to Europe. I was fascinated to find out who discovered what, and where. Who first cultivated the Geranium? When was the Phlox brought to Europe from America? Where did the Daffodil come from? For me it is important to comprehend how, for example, Nerines were believed to be Japanese, but were actually African, yet were called “Guernsey Lilies”!

I could read this book again and again and learn something new each time. (I have read the introduction three times and found myself making notes!) The text is not long and not wordy. And even if the reader is not attracted by the text, the drawings are amazing. If only I could draw!

This is, on the one hand, a beautiful “coffee table” book, for browsing occasionally. Or, on the other hand, if you are interested in botanical history, you could lose yourself in it… I did.