Palm

Fred Gray

Palm

Fred Gray

Distributed for Reaktion Books

232 pages | 80 color plates, 20 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2018
Cloth $27.00 ISBN: 9781780239170 Published July 2018 For sale in North and South America only
The extraordinary palm: diverse and prolific, symbolic and often sacred, essential and exotic (and at times erotic), exploited and controversial. The signature greenery of the tropics and subtropics, these record-breaking plants produce the world’s biggest and heaviest seed, the longest leaf, and the longest stem. In the superbly illustrated, similarly extraordinary Palm, Fred Gray portrays the immense cultural and historical significance of these iconic and controversial plants, unfurling a tale as long and beguiling as their bladed fronds.

As Gray shows, palms sustained rainforest communities for thousands of years, contributing to the development of ancient civilizations across the globe. But as palms gained mystical and religious significance, they also became a plant of abstractions and fantasies, a contradictory symbol of leisure and luxury, of escaping civilization and getting closer to nature—and at times to danger and devastation. In the era of industry and empire, the palm and its myriad meanings were exported to far colder climes. Palms were shown off as exceptional performers in iconic greenhouses and used to clothe, romanticize, and glamorize an astonishing diversity of new places far from their natural homelands. And today, as millions of people worldwide consume palm oil daily, the plant remains embedded in consumer society—and mired in environmental controversy.
Review Quotes
Alys Flower | Gardens Illustrated
"A must-read book. Even if you don’t think you’re interested in palms, you should probably know how crucial a role they play in your life. . . . [Palm is] beautifully written and perfectly peppered with good references, photographs, and paintings. It's a pleasure to read, but it wasn't until I got to palms and capitalism that for me this book became something else. . . . What this book teaches, in its mannered and careful approach, is that palm oil is in much more than just biscuits and lipstick, it lubricates the modern world and how it got to play that role is carefully laid out. . . . The palm as a motif is often symbolic of leisure, of opulent exoticism and the remote desert island getaway, and yet in reality it is playing a far more destructive role."
Palms: Journal of the International Palm Society
"This is a beautiful book. The hardback binding is pleasing and the page layout and type face all carefully thought out and appropriate. Throughout it is illustrated with beautiful photographs or art reproductions, almost all in color. It is also an easy read, and there is much to stimulate. The links made between palms and literature are sometimes surprising and entertaining. This is the sort of book that would sit well on the bedside table in a palm enthusiast’s guest bedroom. Here is an easily read, palm-themed book, filled with entertaining anecdotes and serious political matter, to while away the time, gently informing the reader about selected aspects of this most magnificent of flowering plant families. It is not an exhaustive introduction to the palm family, but the reader may learn much about the interactions between palms and man, particularly in history, art, culture and trade. At £16 [$27], it is a steal."
Botany One
"There’s not only great depth, there’s also tremendous breadth in this comparatively slim volume, and you never really know where your palm adventures will end up. But, that’s a big part of the delight and surprise in this book, and one which is not only abundantly illustrated, but also stylishly and well-written."
For more information, or to order this book, please visit https://www.press.uchicago.edu
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