Synopses & Reviews
Martius's magnificent work on the varieties of palm tree
On 15 December 1868, Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius, Professor of Botany at the University of Munich and director of the Royal Botanic Garden, was carried to his grave in a coffin covered with fresh palm leaves. These were a reference to his groundbreaking Historia naturalis palmarum: opus tripartitum (Natural History of Palms: a work in three volumes), published between 1823-1850. At the time, this encyclopedic treasury contained the sum of human knowledge on the topic, and included 240 exquisite chromolithographic illustrations, including landscape views of palm habitats and botanical dissections.
This epic folio was based on Martius's expedition to Brazil and Peru with zoologist Johann Baptist von Spix, sponsored by King Maximilian I of Bavaria, to investigate natural history and tribal Indians. From 1817 to 1820 the pair travelled over 2,250 km (1,400 miles) throughout the Amazon Basin, the most species-rich palm region in the world, collecting and sketching specimens. On their return both men were awarded knighthoods and lifetime pensions.
In his epic work, Martius outlined the modern classification of palm, produced the first maps of palm biogeography, described all the palms of Brazil, and collated the sum of all known genera of the palm family. For apart from his own collection of specimens and notes, Martius also wrote about the findings of others.
Martius's folio is unusual in its inclusion of cross-sectioned diagrams, conveying the architecture of these mighty trees, which central Europeans would have found hard to imagine accurately. Equally remarkable are the color landscapes showing various palms—often standing alone—which have a simple and elegant beauty. This famous work is an unrivaled landmark in botanic illustration and taxonomy.
Walton Ford's watercolors of animals could be mistaken for 19th century natural science illustrations or British colonial paintings. Except they're not. Something strange and usually sinister is happening in each of Ford's woks whether its a wild turkey crushing a small parrot with its claw, a collection of monkeys wreaking havoc on a formally set dinner table. Painted with the deft technique of a technical artist, Ford's works vibrate with an intensity of uncanny familiarity; they are both reassuring in style and disturbing in content. This book provides an in-depth exploration of Walton Ford's oeuvre, it also includes a complete professional biography. This unlimited popular edition is for readers on a budget or who were unable to get their hands on the original limited Collector's and Art Edition.
Fantastic menagerie: The sinister majesty of Walton Ford's wildlife At first glance, Walton Ford’s large-scale, highly-detailed watercolors of animals may recall the prints of 19th century illustrators John James Audubon and Edward Lear, and others of the colonial era. But a closer look reveals a complex and disturbingly anthropomorphic universe, full of symbols, sly jokes, and allusions to the ’operatic’ nature of traditional natural history themes. The beasts and birds populating this contemporary artist’s life-size paintings are never mere objects, but dynamic actors in allegorical struggles: a wild turkey crushes a small parrot in its claw; a troupe of monkeys wreak havoc on a formal dinner table, an American buffalo is surrounded by bloodied white wolves. The book’s title derives from The Pancha Tantra, an ancient Indian book of animal tales considered the precursor to Aesop’s Fables.
This large-format edition includes an in-depth exploration of Walton Ford’s oeuvre, a complete biography, and excerpts from his textual inspirations: Vietnamese folktales and the letters of Benjamin Franklin, the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini and Audubon’s Ornithological Biography.
First published in TASCHEN’s limited collector’s edition — now available in this standard hardcover edition! Text in English, French, and German
About the Author
About the editor:
Petra Lamers-Schütze studied art history, archaeology and Romance languages and literatures in Mainz and Rome, gaining her doctorate in 1991. She has worked for TASCHEN since 1998, writing and editing numerous art titles, and overseeing the "Art" and "Classic" series.
About the Author -
Prof. Dr. H. Walter Lack is Director at the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem and Professor at the Free University of Berlin. He has published The Flora Graeca Story, Oxford 1998, A Garden of Eternity, Berne 2000, in 2001 TASCHEN's Garden Eden and most recently Florilegium Imperiale, Munich 2006.