Book Review: Martius, Book of Palms 2


I have had the privledge of reviewing the latest publication from Taschen and what an honour.

The book arrived in a massive box inside which was lots of packaging and the book snuggly wrapped in it’s own carrier. On opening the carrier the book itself was amazing not just because of it’s size, 31.4 x 43.5 cm, but because of the quality of the production and illustrations.

This large format book is a reproduction of Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius’s magnificent 19th century botanical study of palm trees; Historia naturalis palmarum: opus tripartitum (Natural History of Palms: a work in three volumes), published between 1823–1853.

This epic book was the first modern classification of palms, including the first maps of palm biogeography and described all the palms of Brazil, collating the sum of all knowledge of the palm family.

TASCHEN has reproduced this book and Martius’s incredibly illustrated plates from a copy of his original work. The book was authored by H. Walter Lack who is a leading historical botany expert and is Director at the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem.

Here’s the official review of the book from Taschen:

On 15 December 1868, Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794–1868), 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 1823–1853. 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.

The history of the book is interesting in itself but you need to see the illustrations to appreciate the full scope of this publication, the detail is great which hopefully you can see from the pictures here, if not just click on them to find out more.

You can buy your copy direct from Taschen for just £99.99.

The book is retailing for £99.99 but Amazon currently have it on offer for just £84.99 (price correct at time of posting) and it can be delivered FREE in the UK with Super Saver Delivery.

This would make a great Christmas present for anyone interested in horticulture or palms.


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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Martius, Book of Palms

  • Linda Post author

    Hello Susanna, I have sent you an email. If you haven’t received it please complete the Contact Us Form (link below) and I’ll get back to you. Linda