color plates throughout
7 1/2 x 9 1/2
Like the attics of deceased and distant relatives, reference collections may conceal treasures seldom seen, often unvalued, and perhaps even forgotten about altogether. Although on public view with little interruption since 1847, the Economic Botany Collections at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew continue to startle. Among them are samples of Japanese lacquer specially collected by John Quin in the 1880s under commission from Kew. This book reproduces his original 1882 report and illustrates the beauty, variety and techniques of the art of lacquer at the time. There is far more to tell of: the opening of Japan in the mid-Nineteenth Century and the rush there of the curious and adventurous; the role of Kew at the height of Britain's imperial power; the place of a poisonous tree sap in Japanese culture; and the man himself, a clergyman's son from Ireland, who devoted his diplomatic career to a life in Japan.