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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  History of Science & Nature

Botanical Icons Critical Practices of Illustration in the Premodern Mediterranean

By: Andrew Griebeler(Author)
329 pages, 96 colour photos and colour illustrations
Botanical Icons
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  • Botanical Icons ISBN: 9780226826790 Hardback Apr 2024 In stock
Price: £43.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

A richly illustrated account of how premodern botanical illustrations document evolving knowledge about plants and the ways they were studied in the past.

This book traces the history of botanical illustration in the Mediterranean from antiquity to the early modern period. By examining Greek, Latin, and Arabic botanical inquiry in this early era, Andrew Griebeler shows how diverse and sophisticated modes of plant depiction emerged and ultimately gave rise to practices now recognized as central to modern botanical illustration. The author draws on centuries of remarkable and varied documentation from across Europe and the Mediterranean.

Lavishly illustrated, Botanical Icons marshals ample evidence for a dynamic and critical tradition of botanical inquiry and nature observation in the late antique and medieval Mediterranean. The author reveals that many of the critical practices characteristic of modern botanical illustrations began in premodern manuscript culture. Consequently, he demonstrates that the distinctions between pre- and early modern botanical illustration centre more on the advent of print, the expansion of collections and documentation, and the narrowing of the range of accepted forms of illustration than on the invention of critical and observational practices exclusive to modernity.

Griebeler's emphasis on continuity, intercultural collaboration, and the gradual transformation of Mediterranean traditions of critical botanical illustration persuasively counters previously prevalent narratives of rupture and Western European exceptionalism in the histories of art and science.


List of Figures

1. Rulers and Root-Cutters
2. Mithridates' Library
3. Painting, Seeing, and Knowing
4. Illustrating Dioscorides
5. Medieval Herbals
6. The Critical Copy
7. Ex Novo
8. Echoes and Reverberations

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Customer Reviews


Andrew Griebeler is assistant professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke University.

By: Andrew Griebeler(Author)
329 pages, 96 colour photos and colour illustrations
Media reviews

"Botanical Icons is an exceptional book [...] a thoroughly-researched – and evidence-based – academic appreciation of the art – and science – of illustrations in botanical-medical texts from antiquity until the Middle Ages. It's a fascinating account that will be appreciated by botanists specifically, and by all who are interested in the transmission of botanical knowledge."
Plant Cuttings

"Botanical Icons is a fascinating, thought-provoking, critical survey of plant illustration practices in the premodern Mediterranean. Griebeler takes his audience on a journey that forces one to reconsider conceptions (and misconceptions) of Mediterranean visual botanical knowledge that are at the root of the modern scientific depiction of plants. The rich, scholarly text, which provokes questions on every page, is supported and augmented by the use of many carefully selected comparative images from across Mediterranean cultures."
– Stephen A. Harris, University of Oxford

"Botanical Icons advances an original direction of interpretative inquiry into botanical illustration, one that weaves together art history, philology, and the history of medicine. Challenging historiographical trends that place ancient botanical illustrations and their medieval descendants into narratives that privilege the Latinate ('Western') tradition and culminate in the naturalistic treatment of plants in the early Renaissance, Griebeler reveals the complementary and contradictory ways that illustrations contributed to the production of visual knowledge of plants across diverse cultural and geographical locations of the Mediterranean basin. This exquisitely illustrated book joins our most significant surveys of botanical illustration."
– Sarah R. Kyle, Iowa State University

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