I will be the first to admit that I don’t know a great deal about plants.
I would like to.
I have a general interest in things that grow in the earth, particularly species that are native to Australia, but I feel like flora and its related topic of gardening is one of those that is so big and specialised that I don’t know enough about it to know how much I don’t know.
If that makes sense. Which it probably doesn’t.
I see it as a nebulous topic, let’s say, beyond the reach of knowing of we mortal (stony) folk with just a passing interest.
But when I saw Botanicum by Katie Scott and Katy Willis from Five Mile Press on offer for review, I knew this was my chance to dip a toe into a hitherto unexplored world. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
The 2016 offering from Big Picture Press’s Welcome to the Museum series, Botanicum is a stunningly curated guide to plant life. With artwork from Katie Scott of Animalium fame, Botanicum gives readers the experience of a fascinating exhibition from the pages of a beautiful book. From perennials to bulbs to tropical exotica, Botanicum is a wonderful feast of botanical knowledge complete with superb cross sections of how plants work.
Given that I don’t know much about plants, I thought I would instead explain to you the things you really need to know about Botanicum; those things that will inspire you to make this eye-catching book part of your collection.
1. It’s impressively large.
You know how in some middle grade, usually fantasy stories there might be a scene where some kids stumble across a dusty old book in a forgotten or forbidden library? They pull it from the shelf and it’s heavy and the paper is thick and it’s filled with arcane knowledge that will provide the key to whatever mysterious problem they have to solve?
This is that book. (Except for the old, dusty part). Here’s a picture of me posing beside our copy, to give you an idea of scale:
It’s the perfect size to lay out flat on a table or on the floor, so all of your friends can gather round and point enthusiastically at that bit of information that will move your quest forward. Seriously, the size and format of the book just screams “Enticing information contained within!”
2. It champions white space.
Unusually for a non-fiction tome, Botanicum makes brilliant use of white space to ensure that the reader doesn’t feel like they need a magnifying monocle to read the text. Here is one of the page spreads to give you an idea:
Each page spread is devoted to a small amount of pertinent information about the plant type in question, accompanied by a page of beautifully illustrated examples of the plant type. The fact that the book is so big means that the pages lie satisfyingly flat, allowing you to pore over the pages to your heart’s content. The book covers a wide range of plants, from mosses, fungi and ferns to the giant sequoia, succulents, carnivorous plants, vines and fruit trees. Truly, if you want to know some basic background about things that grow, or how to tell your hornwort from your hellebore, Botanicum would be a great place to start.
3. It’s eye-poppingly gorgeous to look at.
It’s pretty obvious, from the endpapers to the chapter headings, that the makers of this book know a thing or two about visual design. Everything about this book is visually appealing – the fonts, the colours, the layout – hell, even a cross-section of a breadfruit made Mad Martha want to pull out her crochet hooks and start recreating it in yarn. The book has the kind of illustrations that you want to tear out (carefully), frame and put on your wall. Like this one:
And while I’m at it, here’s a glimpse of the gorgeous endpaper designs, that also features in between chapters:
Let’s be honest: even if you know nothing about plants and have no interest in learning about plants, if you pop this one on your coffee table, guests you wish to impress are going to be fooled into thinking you’re a botanical genius. Or at least a botanical enthusiast.
I get that this is probably a book with a specific, and possibly quite narrow, audience, but do yourself a favour and try and get your hands on a copy of Botanicum, if only to appreciate the beauty of the design. I am now on a quest to procure a copy of one of the earlier books in the Welcome to the Museum series, Animalium by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott, because I suspect the mini-fleshlings would be bowled over by it.
Many thanks to Five Mile Press for providing us with a copy of Botanicum for review.
Until next time,