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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "Look at the pictures" - that's about it, 29 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Trees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution (Paperback)
Very disappointing book. On the plus side, it's a decent assemblage of images of phylogenetic trees. But the reproductions generally are poor, many are too small to read detail, and the range is almost exclusively English language. It's all black and white on plain, matt paper, so nothing like a "coffee table" style artbook. This IDEA is a good one for an e-book, not a quality paperback.
The interpretation is awful, though the basic historical facts are sound. Most important, the first 1/4 of book insists (wrongly) that many images before 1840s are phylogenetic when they plainly are not - hierarchy is not phylogeny. The analysis seems to consist simply of saying "look at the lovely trees". (Make no mistake, some are fabulous; some presented here are really obscure, so it's good to see them out in the open.) But the academic study of visuality in science is miles and mile ahead of this. And art history has a massively long tradition of study on these lines. I was expecting some sort of thought above the straightforward act of pointing to pictures and telling me where they came from. The author describes the evolutionary tree as "iconic" but to an art historian or student of aesthetics, that's equivalent to describing a painting as "pretty" or a photo as "meaningful". Seriously, you've got to do better to justify the purchase price, the paper, and the effort. A missed opportunity.
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