296 pages, 279 colour & b/w illustrations
The renowned LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden counts among its holdings many of the most beautiful and pioneering botanical and horticultural works ever created. More than eight centuries of knowledge, from the twelfth century to the present, are represented in the library's collection of over one million items. In this sumptuously illustrated volume, international experts introduce us to some of the library's most fascinating works – exceedingly rare books, stunning botanical artworks, handwritten manuscripts, Renaissance herbals, nursery catalogs, explorers' notebooks, and more. The contributors hold these treasures up for close inspection and offer surprising insights into their histories and importance.
The diverse materials showcased in Flora Illustrata reflect the creative efforts of eminent explorers, scientists, artists, publishers, and print makers. From the rare, illuminated pages of Pliny the Elder's Naturalis historia (1483), to the earliest book ever published on American insects (1797), to lovely etchings of the water gardens at Villa Pratolino in Florence (1600s), the Mertz Library holdings will inspire in readers a new appreciation for the extraordinary history of botany and its far-reaching connections to the worlds of science, books, art, and culture.
"[...] Flora Illustrata is definitely not one of those sloppily assembled works describing a miscellany of pretty plants and cute critters – efforts quickly destined for the remainder table in bookstores. What takes this extraordinary work out of the mundane are the authoritative essays by various historians [...] of botanical and horticultural art, the numerous B&W illustrations included that allow a more complete perspective, the detailed notes, the exemplary production [...] and, of course, the valuable NYBG emphasis."
– Rudolf Schmid, Taxon 64(5), October 2015
"The LuEsther T. Mertz Library is unquestionably one of the great treasures of the world. Flora Illustrata reveals with stunning scholarship the deeply intertwined history of plants, science, and humanity. Rich and fascinating beyond imagination and now accessible to anyone. A triumph of a book."
– Thomas E. Lovejoy, George Mason University
"As a synthetic grouping, Flora Illustrata is an important and useful contribution. The essays are rich, and are accompanied by some wonderful illustrations. This is a lavish book, successful in its objectives, and useful to a wide audience."
– Daniel Lewis, Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
"An erudite and sumptuous exploration of the timeless fascination of people with plants, which along the way reveals the origins of one of the world's great botanical gardens."
– Peter Crane, author of Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot
"The LuEsther T. Mertz Library at the New York Botanical Garden is surely the greatest research botanical library in the world, a precious repository of knowledge from cultures all over the world and spanning from the 12th century to the 21st. Plants – from which we ultimately derive all of our food, building materials, and medicines – are also a source of great beauty and wonder. Flora Illustrata celebrates all this, and speaks of an intimate relationship between art and science. It is equally a feast for the mind and the eyes."
– Oliver Sacks
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Susan M. Fraser is director, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, The New York Botanical Garden. She lives in New York City. Vanessa Bezemer Sellers is an independent scholar, landscape and garden historian, writer, and researcher in New York City.