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Nature Displaced, Nature Displayed

Order and Beauty in Botanical Gardens

Nature Displaced, Nature Displayed
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Cultivating nature through gardening goes back thousands of years. But botanical gardens directed towards medicinal and scientific ends are of more recent origin. Dating from the Middle Ages, they developed in tandem with Renaissance gardens, evolving into a specific form with their own set of taxonomic and design principles. They reached their apogee in the architectural splendours of the tropical glasshouses of the nineteenth century, with their exotic, luxuriant and often arrestingly beautiful plant collections._x000D_ _x000D_ Such botanical gardens sought to bring together the great diversity of the earth’s flora. They displaced nature from forest, foothill and countryside and re-arranged it in their enclosed spaces to reveal something of the scientific principles underpinning the apparent chaos of the wild. Nature was tamed in order to divulge its hidden secrets and re-displayed in a fashion which heightened a sense of curiosity and wonderment but which reassured that order could be disclosed. _x000D_ _x000D_ Nature Displaced, Nature Displayed shows how the design and display of such gardens was not determined by scientific principles alone. Through a detailed study of three botanical gardens - belonging to the University of Cambridge, the Royal Dublin Society, and the Belfast Natural History Society - the author shows how the final outcome involved a complex interplay of ideas about place, identity, empire, botanical science, and especially aesthetics, creating spaces that would educate the mind as well as please the senses, that would represent taxonomic regularity as well as landscape beauty. _x000D_ _x000D_ By 1900 there were more than twenty gardens in Britain and Ireland, and at the height of her empire more than 120 such establishments in Britain’s overseas territories. From Liverpool, Belfast, Glasgow and Kew in the United Kingdom, to St Vincent in the Caribbean and Christchurch in New Zealand, botanical gardens fed the demand for empirical and theoretical knowledge about the earth’s flora and for the development of botany in the service of widening imperial interests. In this original and highly engaging book, Nuala Johnson offers a wealth of fresh insights into not just the history and development of botanical gardens but into the connections between science and aesthetics, the spatiality of scientific knowledge, and networks of imperial exchange.
I.B.Tauris; June 2011
284 pages; ISBN 9780857720009
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