Five Book Reviews – Reviewed by Valerie Joynt, Hampshire Gardens Trust Honorary Librarian
We have recently acquired five new books for the HGT-Hutton collection at the Hartley Library:
Gunther R.T. Early British Botanists And Their Gardens, based on the unpublished writings of Goodyer, Tradescant and others, 1922 OUP
This book is a gift from the estate of the late Mrs Mary Druscilla Ray, who lived at ‘Goodyers’ in Petersfield. Mrs Ray was a founder member of the Petersfield Historical Society and was involved with the Hampshire Gardens Trust in the creation of the Petersfield Physic Garden. We are very grateful to her and to her family for the gift of this book which will be an important addition to our collection at the Hartley Library.
R. T. Gunther was the first curator in 1924 of the Oxford Museum of the History of Science, and Fellow Librarian at Magdalen College to which college the English botanist John Goodyer had bequeathed his manuscripts and books in 1664. This collection remains an important source for the study of pre-Linnean English botany. The bulk of Goodyer’s personal botanising was done in the 1620s and 1630s but in later years he amassed an important library of contemporary works. Some of these are rare books including the only copy of John Tradescant Senior’s plant list of his Lambeth garden, dated 1634.
John Goodyer was born around 1592 and schooled in Alton; he was employed at Mapledurham House, near Buriton, Petersfield before acquiring his own garden at an unknown house in Droxford. Here he cultivated the first tubers of Jerusalem artichokes in England, famously commenting that they induced a ‘stinking winde’! Later he married and moved to a house in The Spain, Petersfield where, after the Civil War ended, he settled to a life of writing and bibliophilia.
He owned a beautiful Italian-bound copy of Theophrastus (1497) de Plantis (10 books) and de Causis (6 books) all of which by 1623 he had translated into English. Later in life he wrote out and translated into the English the entire Greek text of Dioscorides’ Materia Medica. Together with an unknown botanist he started to prepare a list and synonymy of all known British plants.
This book is part biography but is mainly a catalogue of all the material left to the Magdalen Library by Goodyer, some of which was found as crumpled scraps of (three-hundred-year-old) paper. The inclusion in the sub-title of references to other botanists and their gardens is a little misleading: Gunther names some contemporaries of Goodyer’s who corresponded with him and who may have grown certain plants in their gardens. There is for example a reference to an antirrhinum growing ‘at Dumer in the pstes garden’. Perhaps someone can identify this garden for us? For those studying the rather over-looked botanical years of the seventeenth century (e.g. M. Willes’ book reviewed next) this is an important work and we are delighted to have it in our collection.
M. Willes The Making of the English Gardener 1560-1660, YUP 2011
This is an important history of early horticulture and botanists from the reign of Elizabeth I to the restoration of Charles II. The author shares her impressive knowledge of the men and women of that period who were pushing the boundaries of knowledge in the search for better scientific understanding of the natural world at a time when the emerging book trade was opening up the world of scholarship and discovery. This book is generously illustrated with monochrome reproductions of woodcuts and engraving from manuscripts and books of the time.
L.Wickham Gardens in History: a Political Perspective, 2012 Windgather Press
In this book gardens are looked at in relation to not only how they are influenced by the political ideas of their creators but also how the gardens themselves provide support and legitimacy to those in government, either covertly or directly. Each chapter explores in depth one particular garden that demonstrates the ideas put forward. Topics covered include ancient gardens as political expressions of power, with the case study of Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli, Renaissance Italian gardens and political ideology, demonstrated by Villa Pratolino, Florence and absolutism and diplomacy in the French formal garden using Versailles, Paris. Other overseas gardens examined are Taj Mahal, Agra and Katsura Rikyu, Koyoto. British case studies include Stowe, Birkenhead Park, Kew and Painshill. Most of these gardens will be familiar to readers so it is a pity that the author did not tackle the gardens of Germany and America.
D Fell The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright, Frances Lincoln 2014
This new edition of Derek Fell’s book is a pleasure. For a book which might easily have been presented in large, heavy, coffee-table format it is surprisingly compact and easy to hold. None-the -less it is filled with excellent photographs by the author and concentrates entirely on the garden landscapes of Lloyd Wright’s so-familiar buildings. Frank Lloyd Wright has been hailed as ‘the greatest American architect of all time’ and who has not read about or visited his most revolutionary house in a landscape – Fallingwater in Pennsylvania? In this book Fell explores Wright’s principles of garden design, his inspiration from Japanese and Mayan influencesand appreciation of the naturalistic prairie plantings of Jens Jensen. FLW’s ’10 Landscape Tips’ are particularly enjoyable.
F. Cowell Richard Woods (1715-1793) Boydell 2009
This is a serious scholarly work with detailed end-notes and a lengthy gazetteer. Some of the content may be familiar to those who have already read Cowell’s articles published in the Garden History Journal. Richard Woods has been overshadowed by his contemporary Brown, but their styles were quite distinct. Woods emphasised the pleasure ground and the kitchen garden, he enjoyed the use of flowers in the landscape. Wood was a Catholic working at a time of oppression and distrust; he relied upon Catholic families for his patronage. Cowell takes this subject full-on and analyses the influence which his religion had on his career. Members may recall the interesting visit we made to Old Alresford House some years ago when we saw a small but perfectly-formed example of Richard Wood’s work.