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From their origins in the Renaissance to their apogee in the nineteenth century, botanical gardens brought together in a single space the great diversity of the earth's flora. They displaced nature from forest, foothill and countryside and rearranged it in their enclosed spaces to reveal something of the scientific principles underpinning the apparent chaos of the wild. Nature was tamed in order to divulge its hidden secrets and re-displayed in a fashion which heightened a sense of curiosity and wonderment but reassured that order could be disclosed.
Nuala Johnson's engaging study explores three botanical gardens - the University of Cambridge botanical garden, the Royal Dublin Society botanical garden, and the Belfast botanical garden - to show how the presentation and display of such gardens was influenced by place and how aesthetics, science, entertainment and ideas of empire all played important roles in the final outcome. The result is an outstanding work of scholarship that says much about the spatiality of scientific knowledge and embraces many of the key themes in contemporary historical geography.