Wishlist Worthy: Three Truly Glorious Plant Books

Wishlist Worthy: Three Truly Glorious Plant Books

Tess Wilson
Jun 9, 2011

Last week I shared the gardening library of my dreams- seven books that I would love to own someday. Though I don't have much of a gardening budget right now, acquiring all of these books is not out of the realm of the possible. There are a few other books, however, that are super splurge-y and therefore firmly on the "someday" wishlist…

  • The Temple of Flora by Robert John Thornton was first published in 1799, and remains as stunning as ever. Priced at $150, the collection of 33 large-scale botanical illustrations is a serious investment, though as Martha Stewart Living pointed out, "Beautifully reproduced on loose sheets of archival paper, the images look as dramatic as ever. Think of them as an instant art collection- lining a hallway or even as wallpaper for a powder room- and the book becomes an outright steal." You can ogle the original book online for free, thanks to The Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture.
  • The Botanical Exploration of The Americas by Alexander Von Humboldt is clothbound and includes 82 full-page color plates of the original 1799 illustrations, all for $185. I love this style of botanical illustration, clear and detailed renderings against a plain background. You can see a sampling of images at The Folio Society.
  • So far you might be thinking, "$150, $185- sure, that's a splurge for a book, but spend a little less money on wine and craft thrift-store dresses and you'll be able to save up for them." Oh, but I saved the big dollars for last: The Island of Rota, a very limited-edition masterpiece published by The Museum of Modern Art, for $3,000. According to MoMA, "The Island of Rota unites the work of the photographer Abelardo Morell, the designer Ted Muehling, and the neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks in a limited-edition publication that considers the unique natural history of a particular island in Micronesia." The haunting illustrations get their look from a unique process: "Morell has made thirteen cliché-verres, images made by hand in ink and plant matter on glass and then digitally printed as photographs.... Morell arranged cuttings of the primordial ferns and cycads...in a layer of ink on a glass plate, manipulating them with his fingers to make leaf patterns in the ink and allowing opaque chunks of plant matter to become fixed to the plate as the ink dried. Each glass was then digitally scanned for over an hour to capture the light that passed through it." I have never heard of such a thing, have you? Until we save up the three-grand, MoMA has shared 11 images of the book, including several of the luxurious and elaborate packaging.

Images: The Temple of Flora from Amazon, Botanical Explorations of The Americas Cover from Amazon & Lupine from Folio Society, The Island of Rota by Jonathan Singer from MoMA

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