440 pages, 300 colour & 100 b/w illustrations
Inspired by the pioneering naturalist Gilbert White, who viewed natural history as the common study of cultural and natural communities, Mark Laird unearths forgotten historical data to reveal the complex visual cultures of early modern gardening. Ranging from climate studies to the study of a butterfly's life cycle, this original and fascinating book examines the scientific quest for order in nature as an offshoot of ordering the garden and field.
Laird follows a broad series of chronological events-from the Little Ice Age winter of 1683 to the drought summer of the volcanic 1783-to probe the nature of gardening and husbandry, the role of amateurs in scientific disciplines, and the contribution of women as gardener-naturalists. Illustrated by a stunning wealth of visual and literary materials-paintings, engravings, poetry, essays, and letters, as well as prosaic household accounts and nursery bills-Laird fundamentally transforms our understanding of the English landscape garden as a powerful cultural expression.
"With humor, wit and compassion, Mark Laird presents human-biological life in and around the garden: the charm of natural creatures, the heartbreak of weather, the thrill of the bloom. His manuscript is a monumental achievement in its command of historical data. He has unleashed archival material from diverse sources never brought to bear on the complex world of eighteenth-century gardens and landscapes."
– Therese O'Malley, associate dean, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art
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Mark Laird is a historic landscape consultant and garden conservator and teaches landscape history at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University. Previous books include The Flowering of the Landscape Garden: English Pleasure Grounds, 1720-1800 and Mrs. Delany and Her Circle (Yale).