'This book gives a marvelous glimpse into a lost and luscious Victorian world, peopled not only with plants but with energetic, ambitious - and sometimes frankly bonkers - characters.' Lucy Worsley
'Not since Anna Pavord's The Tulip has a book so brilliantly captured the spirit of its subject. Kate Teltscher's Palace of Palms is a glorious headrush into Victorian history via one of the most iconic and beautiful glasshouses in the world. This is a bright, shining jewel of a book, a hedonists' delight and an escapists' antidote to the humdrum.' Amanda Foreman
Daringly innovative when it opened in 1848, the Palm House in Kew Gardens remains one of the most beautiful glass buildings in the world today.
Seemingly weightless, vast and yet light, the Palm House floats free from architectural convention, at once monumental and ethereal. From a distance, the crowns of the palms within are silhouetted in the central dome; close to, banana leaves thrust themselves against the glass. To enter it is to enter a tropical fantasy. The body is assaulted by heat, light, and the smell of damp vegetation.
In Palace of Palms, Kate Teltscher tells the extraordinary story of its creation and of the Victorians' obsession with the palms that filled it. It is a story of breathtaking ambition, of scientific discovery and, crucially, of the remarkable men whose vision it was. The Palm House was commissioned by the charismatic first Director of Kew, Sir William Hooker, designed by the audacious Irish engineer, Richard Turner, and managed by Kew's forthright curator, John Smith, who battled with boilers and floods to ensure the survival of the rare and wondrous plants it housed.
The establishment of Kew Gardens and the building of the great Palm House is a most remarkable story, that touches on every aspect of 19th century life. Kate Teltscher knows it all - the politics, the science, the engineering - and writes about it with effortless elegance to weave the most wonderfully compelling narrative. -- Michael Frayn The Palm House at Kew has been a world attraction since it was opened in 1848 - and Kate Teltscher's brilliantly researched account of the botanists and architects responsible is as thrilling as a novel. -- Claire Tomalin The Palm House is unarguably the iconic building at Kew Gardens, and in my opinion, the most beautiful glasshouse in the world. The Victorians created this glorious temple to house their precious palms and today, 170 years later, it continues to delight and awe millions of visitors every year. This book tells its story. -- Richard Deverell, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Kate Teltscher's highly readable account breathes life into the key characters and events that shaped the remarkable evolution of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew during the 19th century, and its most iconic building, the Palm House. -- Toby Musgrave This book gives a marvelous glimpse into a lost and luscious Victorian world, peopled not only with plants but with energetic, ambitious - and sometimes frankly bonkers - characters. -- Lucy Worsley Teltscher is a remarkable new historian . . . wholly original -- William Dalrymple In this fascinating book, Kate Teltscher introduces us not just to the Palm House at Kew, but to the world of the palm. In so doing, she roams from botany and horticulture, through plant hunting expeditions and literary traditions, to engineering and architecture. Some of the people met on this journey are the privileged members of society, some technical geniuses, others working men who toiled in gruelling conditions to transport a tropical world to Victorian London. -- Margaret Willes, author of<i> The Gardens of the British Working Class</i> Not since Anna Pavord's The Tulip has a book so brilliantly captured the spirit of its subject. Kate Teltscher's Palace of Palms is a glorious headrush into Victorian history via one of the most iconic and beautiful glasshouses in the world. This is a bright, shining jewel of a book, a hedonists' delight and an escapists' antidote to the humdrum. -- Amanda Foreman The story of its [the Palm House's] creation and the plant collections in it encompass all the qualities that make a great story: personal ambition, disagreements, eccentricity, struggles, fashions, fights and ultimately a building that triumphs. * This England * I stand corrected by this exhilarating book - but also delighted, astounded and vastly entertained . . . This is gardening history at its best - a sparkling window on the colourful and contradictory Victorian era. -- Ambra Edwards * The Garden * Truly, this is a work of which all interested in the history of natural history and the history of botany should immediately take note. -- Johannes E. Riutta * The Well-read Naturalist * Kate Teltscher skilfully distils the historical facts of the creation of the Palm House into a piece of storytelling that is difficult to put down. * English Garden * Lively . . . vividly drawn . . . Wearing her research lightly, Teltscher tells her tale of politicking and financial wrangles, domestic tragedies and epic plant hunting expeditions with a pace and vibrancy more commonly found in novels than in academic study. * Gardens Illustrated * The story of the creation of the Palm House and the men whose vision it was, are engrossingly told. * Choice Magazine 'Hardback Book of Month' * The fascinating story of one of the greatest showpieces of Victorian Britain: the Palm House in Kew Gardens. -- Sam Leith * Spectator * Stories of botanical exploration are combined with biographies of the characters behind the famous building, transporting the reader to 19th-century London and the countries that supplied the palms for the glasshouse. One can only marvel at the scale of the achievement and feel humbled by how much we owe to the enslaved peoples who enabled countless plants to be brought to our shores from the colonies. -- Rachel de Thame * Sunday Times * A glorious green adventure story. -- Ann Treneman * The Times * A fascinating and rip-roaring account of the building of one of the great - and experimental - glass buildings of the Victorian age. * Daily Telegraph * Teltscher skilfully brings to life the human story behind the growth of Kew and the creation of its extraordinary centrepiece. What's more remarkable, however, is her command of the details of the new technology that went into the construction of the Palm House . . . she makes such matters unexpectedly fascinating. * Literary Review * The most enthralling historical book I've read this year. -- Claire Tomalin * New Statesman 'Books of the year' *
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