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[Gosse, Philip Henry]

Wanderings Through the Conservatories at Kew

  • A charming volume on Kew Gardens published in 1857, only seventeen years after their incorporation as a national botanical garden open to the public. The book is organised as a conversational guide that leads the reader on a tour of the gardens, describing the plants and their settings and providing ecological information, including numerous quotations from scientific authorities and explorers. The book is illustrated throughout by engravings made after daguerreotypes taken at Kew, probably by the author. Author Philip Henry Gosse (1810-1888) was an English naturalist and Christian evangelist who became one of the leading science writers of the Victorian era. He first came to prominence in the late 1840s for his scientifically significant books on the ecology of Canada and Jamaica, and is still known as the "father of Jamaican ornithology". A series of very successful books for the general public followed, and in 1853 he published A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast, "which brought before the public the science of marine biology, and was partly responsible for the sea-shore craze of the mid-Victorian period. (As the famous, eccentric, and deeply religious Devon naturalist, he is the model for Theophilus Hopkins in Peter Carey's prize-winning novel Oscar and Lucinda, 1988.) In May 1853 he helped establish the first public aquarium in Regent's Park and later that year constructed one of the first domestic glass aquariums. The following year he published The Aquarium which triggered a second craze to sweep through Victorian society. Much of Gosse's success was due to the fact that he was essentially a field naturalist who was able to impart to his readers something of the thrill of studying living animals at first hand rather than the dead disjointed ones of the museum shelf. In addition to this he was a skilled scientific draughtsman who was able to illustrate his books himself. Indeed the chromolithographic plates in The Aquarium and Actinologia Britannica (1860) were prepared from his own watercolours and were a major advance in natural history book illustration intended for the mass market" (ODNB).
  • London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, [1857]. Octavo. Original purple cloth, titles and elaborate floral design to spine gilt, floral borders blocked in blind to boards, yellow coated endpapers. Cloth a little worn at extremities, some dampstain and loss of size, particularly to spine, contents lightly tanned with occasional small spots and marks, binding tight. A very good copy.

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