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Searching for Order: The History of the Alchemists, Herbalists and Philosophers Who Unlocked the Secrets of the Plant World Paperback – 2 Nov 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747585296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747585299
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.9 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 540,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A history of the naming of plants. Part treasure hunt, part travel guide and occasional biography, this book doesn't disappoint' Sunday Times 'Her celebration of scholar-botanists is thrillingly told, guiding us from the ground-breaking work of the ancient philosopher Theofrastus to the seventeenth-century plantsman John Ray, who established botany as a scientific discipline' Sunday Telegraph 'Pavord's epic account of the botanical pioneers who named and classified plants before the over-esteemed Linnaeus is a fabulously interesting read' Independent '[A] beautifully written, gloriously illustrated history of how brilliant men from the days of Aristotle attempted to classify the world's plants. Here are enough upstagings and rivalries for 100 novels and endless fascinating facts' Jilly Cooper, Daily Telegraph Books of the Year

About the Author

Anna Pavord is the gardening correspondent for the Independent and the author of eight previous books, including the bestselling The Tulip. She contributes to a number of magazines, both in the US and the UK and regularly fronts programmes for BBC Radio 3 and 4. She chairs the Gardens Panel of the National Trust and sits on the Parks and Gardens Panel of English Heritage. She lives in Dorset, England, where she spent thirty years restoring the garden of an old rectory. She has recently moved to a new house and started another garden. She is married and has three daughters.


Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Having read Anna Pavord's "The Border Book", which is interesting and easy to follow, I felt that she would be an excellent person to write a down to earth, yet compelling book on how plants got their names.
This is not a book that does that. Anna writes beautifully about her travels and passion for the pioneers in plant naming. She also gives a great deal of detail as to how the process of plant naming has evolved through the ages, but this is a book on the process of naming, not the plants themselves.
That said I am enjoying the book and it is easy to read. My only real criticism is that she has an annoying habit of quoting in Italian or Latin, pre-supposing that the reader is familiar/fluent with these languages. A revised edition would do well to give the translation in brackets alongside the quote.
In summation. If you want a good bedside read about the people who gave birth to the process of classifying and standardising plant nomenclature, then this is great bedside or coffee table read. If you're interested in the plants themselves, this may not be for you. For all that it is a good book all the same.
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Format: Paperback
I would most certainly recommend this book but have one big question. Anna Pavord cannot write a dull sentence, the book is beautifully produced and it provides a truly in-depth treatment of its subject; but who exactly is it aimed at?

For the general reader there is probably just too much information on the arcane development of plant nomenclature; yet it is insufficiently referenced and rigorous to have serious academic pretensions (which, to be fair, it doesn't claim to have).

Please don't let me put you off trying the book. I learned a huge amount about a subject I would previously have found deathly-dull. And it's a lovely object to have and to hold. It's just that all the while I couldn't help feeling it should have been conceived as a rather different book.
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Format: Hardcover
This marvellous book stands out by different criteria: its beautiful illustrations, the fascinating struggle of taxonomy, the generally unknown topic of the ancient world of plant naming.
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Format: Paperback
This is honestly one of the best books I have read. I'm not really interested in plants, but this book, which is a history of botany in the West, had me utterly wrapt. It explains how European understanding of nature has travelled from the presumption that geese hibernated in the bottom of ponds, to the discovery that petals are in fact different from leaves, to the present day use of DNA and cellular biology. Pavord explains that it took centuries of scientific research, whole lifetimes of scientists, to discover simple facts that we now learn in primary school and take for granted. We indeed are standing on the shoulders of giants. From the gardens of the Ancient Greeks, to a visit to Alexandria, to the plant hunters of the 1800's, this book encompasses a grand sweep of European history and scientific thought. I have the hardcover, which is filled with gorgeous colour prints of botanical illustrations.

My only concern is that this book, which presents as a history of botany in the WORLD, completely ignores the existence of China, India, or indeed any other nation beyond the borders of Europe, besides Persia. Considering the Chinese contribution to science includes the invention of paper, ink, the printing press, seismograph, compass, wheelbarrow, gunpowder, silk, the decimal system and paper money, just to name a few - and keeping in mind most of these were invented thousands of years before they became known in Europe - leaving out the Chinese seems to be a rather large omission. I was disappointed that the Far East was ignored, because I would have been fascinated to read about Chinese scientific thought about plants, and how Eastern thought may have contributed to Western, and vice versa. Alas, Pavord's "world" does not include Asia. To ignore the Asian contribution to science seems ludicrous, and presents as a gaping hole in the logic of this otherwise wonderful book.
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