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The Tulip by Anna Pavord

The Tulip (1999)

by Anna Pavord

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I read some parts of this book but it was a bit heavy going, so I am afraid that I will be passing it on unfinished.
  isabelx | Mar 8, 2011 |
Judging by its engaging introduction, The Tulip could have been a really good book. Unfortunately, it quickly degenerates into a stultifyingly lifeless slog through a laundry list of tulip varieties and tulip aficionados across four centuries. There are only twelve color plates for 268 pages of text, and as Pavord does not indicate to what portions of the text the plates refer, they are nearly useless.

Pavord may have penned six other books prior to The Tulip, but she is no historian. The text is badly organised, highly repetitive, and lacks the necessary context or structure to put the flower’s development into a historical perspective. Indeed, it reads like nothing so much as a shallow Cliff’s Notes of the sources Pavord lists in her bibliography. It also includes several pages of untranslated French that reek of pretension given the fact that Pavord obtained English translations for all the other non-English sources she quoted in the book. Pavord must have had an audience in mind when she penned The Tulip, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out who it was, and I doubt all but the most completist of readers will be able to make it through to the end. ( )
1 vote Trismegistus | Mar 25, 2009 |
A history of the domestication of the tulip and its spread into western Europe, with the subsequent explosion in popularity as it entered new regions. This book contains quite a bit of interesting information about the growth and fashion of tulips when they were first introduced as garden plants, as well as history of the layout and fashion of gardens in general, however it is slow-moving and somewhat repetitive. Part of this I believe is due to trying to expand the subject matter to fill more pages than it needs to be covered adequately, part due to the choice of dividing chapters by country or region and chronicling the flower's rise to - and fall from - the height of fashion in each one; the similarity in each region leads to a lot of "didn't I just read this?" ( )
  frobozz | Nov 24, 2007 |
A great history of the flower. ( )
  mms | Jan 7, 2007 |
I picked this book up at the Smithsonian because The Botany of Desire is one of my favorite books and includes a section on tulips which I found to be especially interesting. Pavord's account of the tulip is very interesting although it, for me at least, moves a bit slowly. I've found myself having difficulty finishing it, but I don't think that is a reflection on the subject. ( )
  jwl | Aug 15, 2006 |
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Book description
CONTENTS: Introduction -- PART I: chapter one: A Flower of the East -- chapter II: The Tulip in Northern Europe -- chapter III: Early British Growers -- chapter IV: The Dutch and Tulipomania -- chapter V: Dutch Dominance -- chapter VI: The English Florists' Tulip -- chapter VII: The Last Hundred Years -- PART II: chapter VIII: Tulips: The Species -- chapter IX Tulip Cultivars -- Chronology of Tulips -- Notes -- Bibliography -- Acknowledgements -- Index.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0747542961, Hardcover)

In an auction held in Holland in February 1637, 99 lots of tulip bulbs fetched a staggering 90,000 guilders, more than $3.5 million in today's money. Tulipomania had reached its height, and its story is told in just one of the fascinating sections of Anna Pavord's wonderful book on this most seductive of flowers.

Pavord's passion for the flower is evident from the opening pages of the book, where she tells of scrambling across the hillsides of Crete in search of an obscure, indigenous purple tulip. The story of the discovery of this tulip leads into Pavord's extraordinary history of this beautiful, enigmatic flower. As with all the best love stories, Pavord's is told from the perspective of the object of affection--in this case, the tulip--from its adoption by the Ottoman sultans of Istanbul in the 18th century to its present cultivation by the Wakefield Tulip Society.

Along the way, incredible stories of people's investments in the flower emerge, the result, as Pavord explains, of a unique feature of the tulip. Its variegated colors are produced by a small parasitic aphid, which weakens the plant but produces its gorgeous hues. The tulipomania that gripped 17th-century Europe was a form of futures trading, as people purchased tulip bulbs at increasingly inflated prices with the hope that they would flower into the most beautiful and kaleidoscopic colors imaginable. Tulip is an extraordinary book, beautifully illustrated and offering a fascinating story of our obsession with the most ephemeral of objects. Buying tulip bulbs will never be the same again. --Jerry Brotton

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:54 -0400)

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