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on January 21, 2008
As a botanical illustrator, I purchased this book to learn from the masters, and be able to see these vibrantly colorful illustration in full size. I was not disappointed. The book is beautifully printed on creamy paper, the colors look true, and the design is very elegant. I have returned to it time after time to see the different details, and always find something new. It's a great addition to my botanical wonders library.
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on January 7, 2009
You'd better read the title of this book carefully before you order it sight unseen. The key word is ART, not 'natural history' or 'age of discovery'. The book is in fact a series of essays about five pioneering scientific illustrators: Leonardo da Vinci, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian, and Mark Catesby. I certainly don't wish to scoff at the importance of scientific illustration, or to deny that there is no true line between such illustration and fine art. I only wish the book in hand included a good deal more of the illustrations and less of the sometimes rhapsodic texts. As it happens, this is effectively a 'coffee table' book, large format, high quality paper, excellent color printing -- just the kind of book you'd give as a holiday present to an ungrateful lout like me.

Added months later: Since I first looked through this book, I've become deeply impressed by and interested in the lief and work of Maria Sibylla Merian, one of the illustrator-subjects of this book. The plates of her scientific illustrations are phenomenal, and her life was as unique an adventure as that of any woman in Early Modern European history. I refer you to the biographey of her, "Chrysalis", by Kim Todd.
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on May 11, 2008
I was really impressed with the color illustrations of the artists. I was surprised to see that Leonardo Davinci's art was the worst of any artist in the book. I had heard that David Attenborough had not made enough comments in the book according to one Amazon reviewer, but I found that that was not the case. He certainly is the main author of this book.
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on February 5, 2008
I saw a review of this book in a magazine, and just had to have it. It's everything I thought it was and more. I'm savoring it, taking my time with the great illustrations--reading it is like going to a private museum.

I had a great shopping experience also--came in a timely manner, and saved a little by using Amazon.
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on February 22, 2009
David Attenborough technically retired after "Life in Cold Blood" capped his "Life" series, which has now covered every living thing in the world. Now he does whatever he wants, which generally means geeking out over one obscure thing after another; he recently completed a one-hour special about amber, just because he thinks amber is cool. And now there's this, which is basically him waxing geektastic about famous nature illustrators.

Flip through it and find a Da Vinci drawing of a dissected bear's foot on one page, with Attenborough babbling about how kickass that is on the next. If you don't think that sounds awesome, this is not the book for you. Neither am I the friend for you.

It's not all Attenborough - he just wrote the wonderful introduction and contributed extensive comments on many of the plates. Other folks wrote each of the four essays on important figures in natural illustration's history. And I saw a typo in the Da Vinci one, which pissed me off. I hate typos. But this book still totally rules my face.
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on January 7, 2008
I must admit being a little misled by the fact the name David Attenbourough appears above this book's title. I am so fascinated by his Telvision works and the accompanying books, that I buy almost anything with his name on it.
While the book itself is well illustated and well written, I was dissapointed that Sir David's only contribution was the Introduction.
This is a good book for someone with a deep interest in Natural History illustations, but may be a little much for someone with a more fundamental interest in Natural History documentaries.
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on January 10, 2013
My father, artist and one possessing an advocation as a naturalist, received this for his 95th birthday. He was effusive with joy describing the quality of the art and the fascinating content.
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on October 18, 2007
This book is a work of art. For those interested in natural history, it will make you drool. Splendidly done, and highly recommended!
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on September 7, 2013
I was looking for a book about natural history artists, and found this. It is wonderful - the color plates are gorgeous. The section on Maria Sibylla Merian alone was worth the price of the book (which I got used, sort of a bargain, actually). I have not yet read a word - I probably will eventually, but I can't take my eyes off of the flowers and insects. Lovely.
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on April 24, 2008
I think this book is beautiful. It's exactly what I expected. I'm a biology nut and I love old botanicals. These are very unique pieces and I really enjoy them. My 5 yr. old thinks this book is amazing! She asks tons of questions about all of the drawings and is learning a lot about biology in the process.
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