Extraordinary fact: In Amsterdam in 1838 the asking price for a single
tulip bulb, the "Semper Augustus," was 13,000 florins. Anna
Pavord explains in her elegant tome The Tulip
that at the time
this amount was "more than the cost of the most expensive house on
the canals at the center of Amsterdam." Europe during this period
was at the height of what was known as "Tulipmania," and as
Pavord describes in her enthralling history of the flower, tulips have
long woven a spell of lust and avarice on mankind. Beginning with references
to the tulip in 13th-century Persian poetry and progressing all the way
to the modern-day tulip fanciers of the Wakefield Tulip Society, Pavord's
book is exhaustively comprehensive in its collection of stories behind
this most desired flower.
In Pavord's assured prose these stories are
fabulous and the history fascinating at times, astonishing. One
of the interesting (and, in some cases, literally maddening) aspects of
the flower is that tulips can "break" a process causing
the flower to bloom for several years in a single color, and then suddenly
reappear one year with a completely different design, replete with "flamed"
or "feathered" patterns on its petals. Men who made their fortunes
speculating on the flower were driven insane by this inconsistency: the
tulip's "sublime, reckless, irrepressible, wayward, unpredictable,
strange, subtle" character. Pavord argues that the tulip is the queen
of all flowers, having inspired greed, desire, anguish, and, yes, madness
for centuries. As she shares her obsession with her readers, we can't
help but be convinced. Georgie, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The New York Times
bestseller and international publishing sensation-now available in paperback.
Greed, desire, anguish, and devotion have all played their part in the development of the tulip from a wild flower of the Asian steppes to the worldwide phenomenon it is today. No other flower has ever carried so much cultural baggage: it charts political upheavals, illuminates social behavior, mirrors economic booms and busts, and plots the ebb and flow of religious persecution.
Sumptuously illustrated from a wide range of sources, this beautifully produced and irresistible volume has become a bible, a unique source book, a universal gift book, and a joy to all who possess it. Now available in paperback, it's as irresistible as its subject.
"This is no dry, botanical tome, though its botany is gracefully woven into the tale. The Tulip reads more like an adventure story." Anne Raver, The New York Times
"[A] verbally and visually ravishing book." House & Garden
"I cannot praise this book too highly...beautifully designed and illustrated." Mail on Sunday
"Beware: this seductive book could start Tulipomania all over again." Harpers & Queen
About the Author
is the gardening correspondent for the Independent
, and the author of The Flowering Years
and Gardening Companion
. She lives in Dorset, England.