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The Tulip: The Story of the Flower That Has Made Men Mad Paperback – February 10, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (February 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582341303
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582341309
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,122,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In an auction held in Holland in February 1637, 99 lots of tulip bulbs fetched a staggering 90,000 guilders, more than $3.5 million in today's money. Tulipomania had reached its height, and its story is told in just one of the fascinating sections of Anna Pavord's wonderful book on this most seductive of flowers.

Pavord's passion for the flower is evident from the opening pages of the book, where she tells of scrambling across the hillsides of Crete in search of an obscure, indigenous purple tulip. The story of the discovery of this tulip leads into Pavord's extraordinary history of this beautiful, enigmatic flower. As with all the best love stories, Pavord's is told from the perspective of the object of affection--in this case, the tulip--from its adoption by the Ottoman sultans of Istanbul in the 18th century to its present cultivation by the Wakefield Tulip Society.

Along the way, incredible stories of people's investments in the flower emerge, the result, as Pavord explains, of a unique feature of the tulip. Its variegated colors are produced by a small parasitic aphid, which weakens the plant but produces its gorgeous hues. The tulipomania that gripped 17th-century Europe was a form of futures trading, as people purchased tulip bulbs at increasingly inflated prices with the hope that they would flower into the most beautiful and kaleidoscopic colors imaginable. Tulip is an extraordinary book, beautifully illustrated and offering a fascinating story of our obsession with the most ephemeral of objects. Buying tulip bulbs will never be the same again. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This splendidly extravagant history is only the latest example of how far an obsession with Queen Tulipa can lead. Pavord (The Flowering Year), the gardening correspondent for the Independent, searched the world's libraries and archives and trekked over war-torn mountainsides to put together an astonishing bouquet of economic and cultural lore, grand historic trends and horticultural exotica. Her witty, frighteningly erudite story starts in Turkey, where Sultans of old held nightly entertainments in gardens lit by mirrored lanterns and required guests to dress in colors to match the tulips. Holland of 1634-1637 saw the famous Tulipomania, during which a single bulb could be traded for the price of the most expensive house in Amsterdam. Seventeenth-century French ladies of fashion wore tulips like jewels (and paid as much for them), and monographists puzzled endlessly over why plain blossoms could suddenly transform themselves into feathered and flamed curiosities. As for Enlightenment England, supposedly sensible people were not immune to the rage, and burgeoning florists' societies were dedicated to growing the flower in the island's wet and clammy soil. Though this isn't a how-to manual, gardeners will appreciate the encyclopedic descriptions of wild species and garden varieties of tulips. Lastly, the sumptuous illustrations covering five centuries of tulip-inspired art and artifacts will dazzle browsers and botanists alike. About much more than a lovely flower, this book will give readers a panoramic eyeful of culture, aesthetics, politics and economics?in short, the spectrum of human endeavor as revealed in the passage of the tulip through history. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Anne Pavord narrates the history of the tulip like a love story.
Kalpish Ratna
Each one of them might stand alone as an essay but the author seems to be lacking the craft or will to force them together into an entertaining narrative.
Erik Moore
This was quite simply the most boring book I have ever tried to read.
akajake

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on May 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful book and more of a history book than a garden book. I found it in the history section of a local bookstore. "The Tulip" is filled with color reproductions of paintings and prints executed in the Netherlands in the 16th-18th centuries, so one could argue it is an art book.
Although the author tells the story of the introduction of the tulip into the west, the real contribution of the book as far as I am concerned is the author's discourse on the origins of the various kinds of tulips.
Reading, "The Tulip" has relieved me of the feelings of intimidation I have experienced as I browsed through the various professional bulb catalogs from growers. These catalogs have quite reasonable prices, and many more bulb offerings than can be found in local garden center stores, however, they never contain photos and provide only sparse information about the growing requirements and behaviour of specific bulbs. Knowing more about the geographic origins, history, and growing preferences of various tulip types has made me bolder, and I am experimenting with many new bulbs this year.
If you're new to gardening, you may not find this book very useful. Try the Eyewitness Garden Handbook "Bulbs" to get started growing bulbs, including tulips.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on October 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
`The Tulip' by Anna Pavord is a much different sort of book than the now famous `The Orchid Thief' written by `New Yorker' writer Susan Orlean and the basis of the movie starring Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper.

Ms. Pavord is a much more conventional writer on things horticultural, although this is certainly not a conventional horticultural book. The subtitle, `The Story of A Flower That Has Made Men Mad' begins to give a sense of the historical importance of the tulip which began as a wild flower native ranging from Asia Minor (modern Turkey) to Persia (modern Iran) and domesticated under the Ottoman sultans who ruled this part of the world in the mid-15th century.

The tulip mania reached heights which are hard to believe today and I'm hard pressed to think of anything comparable in the modern world unless it is the income of professional sportsmen such as Tiger Woods and Andre Agassi who receive astronomical compensations for lending their names to commercial products purely on the basis of a skill at something which for almost everyone else on the planet is a recreation.

I make this comparison because as a tulip grower myself, I find this simply nothing more than a decoration, no more nor less valuable than our dahlias, marigolds, and chrysanthemums. This book makes clear the fact that from 1560 to 1750, the tulip became much, much more than a pretty decoration for spring gardens and dining room floral arrangements.

One thing I can appreciate is the novelty of this lovely flower to the rather dour shores of France, Germany, England, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia in the 16th century.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book, generally touted as 'the definitive book' on tulips, is somewhat disappointing. More interesting historical information exists on tulipomania and tulip fever. Particularly irksome is the prevalence of passages in French with no English translations. Come on, Ms Pavord, we aren't all academics schooled in French! I thought information on the discovery of the virus that causes tulips to 'break' should have been included: so much has been written already about tulip fever through the 16th and 17th centuries that to continue the history to the 1920s, when the cause of breaking tulips was discovered, would have rounded out the picture nicely. But we only receive a vague reference here and there. Considering also that the latter part of the book concerns species and hybrid tulips, more photographs would have been helpful. One description sounds much like another after a while.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
What a big disappointment this book was!! I love gardens, love gardening, and majored in history, so I thought a history of the tulip would be a great buy, but boy does Anna Pavord overdo what could have been a good thing. This book is at least 50% too expensive and 50% too long, and it would have been so much better if the author had forgotten about trying to be comprehensive (the second half of the book is nothing but a huge catalog of species of interest only to professional horticulturists) and put more effort into making some of the fasxinating people she mentions in the first half come alive. Instead, the book turns into an over-rapid tour through hundreds of years of history, with little or no attempt made to provide background details that would help us put an undoubtedly fascinating story in context. The interesting parts of the tulip's history - particularly the Dutch tulip mania of the 1630s - are given little more weight than lengthy trawls through far less fascinating periods. Sure, the book looks great but, really, what a shame.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Ms.Pavord certainly does love her tulips - the narrative is strewn with latin names for every variety of tulip.
Originally from the middle-east and very different to most other flowers, the discovery of strange multi-coloured hybrids that appeared spontaneously kept nurserymen occupied for years looking for the perfect specimen. This led to an outrageous inflation in the price, people selling their homes to buy one bulb!
Written in a style that fails to hold one's attention, there is perhaps a tad more botanical detail than is necessary for the layman, but when one considers that this is the second book - a corollary to a scholarly exercise - on tulips, it is surprising that so little jargon is used.
Very informative though lacking in story-telling. ***.
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