The Tulip Hardcover – 14 Jan 1999
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In an auction held in Holland in February 1637, 99 lots of tulip bulbs fetched a staggering 90,000 guilders, more than £6 million in today's money. Tulipomania had reached its height, and its story is told in just one of the fascinating sections of Anne Pavord's wonderful book on this most seductive of flowers, The Tulip.
Pavord's passion for the flower is evident from the opening pages of the book, as she scrambles across the hillsides of Crete in search of an obscure, indigenous purple tulip, whose discovery leads into Pavord's extraordinary history of this beautiful yet enigmatic flower. As with all the best love stories, Pavord's is told from the perspective of the tulip, from its adoption by the Ottoman sultans of Istanbul, including the downfall of Ahmed III in 1730, so indulgent was his desire for the flower, to the present cultivation of the flower by the Wakefield Tulip Society.
Along the way incredible stories of people's investment in the flower emerge, the result, as Pavord explains, of the unique feature of the tulip. Its variegated colours are produced by a small parasitic aphid, which weakens the plant, but produces its gorgeous colours. The Tulipomania which 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 colours imaginable. The 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
"Splendidly extravagant history...an astonishing bouquet of economic and cultural lore, grand historic trends and horticultural exotica." --"Publishers Weekly" "Visually stunning" --"New Yorker" "Fascinating and sumptuous...an epic drama, a true tale that spans continents and centuries, shows humankind at its worst and its best, with heroes and villains galore." --"Seattle Post-Intelligencer" "A wondrous account... remarkable." --"Seattle Weekly" "Verbally and visually ravishing book." --"House & Garden" ""The Tulip" reads more like an adventure story, written against a backdrop of a 16th-and 17th-century Europe..."--"Desert Sun"See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
But when Pavord strays outside the realms of horticultural history she displays an alarming lack of knowledge. It is, for example, woefully simplistic to state that Sultan Ahmed III forfeited his throne through his love of tulips; many political factors were far more important. Pavord misdates the vital first encounter with the flower by Ambassador Busbecq (which we're led to believ was one of the most important incidents in the whole history of the tulip) by four years. And she makes only the most cursory attempt to sketch in the historical background, whether it be in the Ottoman Empire, the United Provinces or England. In summary, this is a fine book for garden lovers, but one serious historians will find jejeune.
I'm sorry to sound so jaundiced. If I'd discovered this book for myself I'd probably have found it mildly interesting and written at least a lukewarm review. But the hype that has surrounded The Tulip from the moment of publication baffles and irritates me.
I am sorry as I would want to support any gardener and friend of Christo, but this book is acceptable if you get it as a gift, otherwise there must be many more books better on tulips, better on history of horticulture, and better on the madness of crowds.
The introduction is excellent. But from there on the text just expands. The story of the origins of the tulip in the Near East, its arrival in Europe, its mad role in the speculative 'tulip fever' of seventeenth century Holland, and the subsequent developments of nurserymen, the rise of florist's societies and the technical details of modern breeding in the tulip industry, with its enhanced knowledge of genetics, are all fascinating - but told at too much length, with too much detail and in a style which, after a while, exhausts the reader.
Symptomatic of what is wrong with the author's understanding of her audience, is the fact that long extracts are in French. Without translation. Surely the days are long, long gone when an author can assume that her audience are all cheerfully Francophone??? I was forced to learn French at school, but even for my generation it wasn't universal, and even if I'd been good at it (which I wasn't), I'd still struggle with sixteenth and seventeenth century horticultural French involving technical terms which don't appear in my modest dictionary. The odd Latin tag, and the failure to translate the Latin titles of early books, smack of the same misplaced intellectual snobbery. When academic books on obscure French philosphers translate their quotes, there is no excuse for Pavord.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A superb book. Make sure when ordering that you are buying the full edition of the original. Some paperback versions are only part one of the original.Published 9 months ago by Lydia Markova
An excellent book on the tulip all details that one could wish for are here in this tome.Published 10 months ago by hortus ink
A great book. I was very happy to give it as a gift to a friend who is just discovering tulips.Published on 22 Feb. 2014 by Pamela Gillingham
More a history book than either a horticultural or botanical account of tulips. What it says is of interest to garden historians but rather less so to practical horticulturalists... Read morePublished on 9 Jan. 2014 by RobJay
I just love it, having lived in Turkey and seen their wonderful wild flowers, this book means a lot to me. It is easy to read and I could not put it down. Read morePublished on 12 July 2013 by Ute-Karin Ridger
The book was in great conditions. I wanted it for the pictures because I want to get a tulip tattoo, the paper has great quality.Published on 9 Mar. 2013 by Melissa
Anna is at her best when digging for the history on flora and people.Another great repository of knowledge on this most under valued of flowers. Read morePublished on 11 Feb. 2013 by Gary