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Distributed for Reaktion Books


For centuries common primroses have spread breathtaking carpets of pale lemon yellow across the globe, the first sign of spring. Abundant, edible, and beneficial for many ailments, they have supported civilization’s social and cultural foundations. When undaunted plant hunters risked their lives to introduce the many Himalayan primroses of breathtaking beauty, the primrose gained iconic status. Capable of endless variation, primroses have captured the attention of gardeners, plant breeders, and scientists, while artists and poets have found them essential as both subject matter and muse. William Shakespeare introduced us to the “the primrose path,” a pleasurable but destructive route, in several of his plays, and Charles Darwin spent more than thirty years working with primroses to solve an elegant evolutionary mystery.

This book tells the story of how primroses became so successful, circling the Earth, adapting to human civilization, and yet holding their own on inaccessible craggy summits where they may never be seen. Bringing together facts, folklore, and beautiful images from around the world, Primrose is a delightful guide to this hugely popular flower.

256 pages | 115 color plates | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2


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"Lawson’s book is graced with over 100 other splendidly reproduced illustrations: botanical paintings of individual plants, photographs, herbarium sheets, electron micrographs, handwritten letters with line drawings, portraits of primrose breeders and historians, and posters from popular culture incorporating the flower. Around and among these visual delights are striking condensations of history and biography. . . . Authorial joy permeates our richly illustrated verbal travels from Scotland to Turkey to Tibet to the one South American primrose. This labor of love includes a comprehensive index, a list of associations and websites, an excellent bibliography, 20 pages of references, and a superb timeline. . . . Primrose is the newest addition to the Botanical series from Reaktion Books Ltd. As for the phrase from Hamlet reused by so many—perhaps most movingly by Oscar Wilde in De Profundis—'the primrose path' is explored both metaphorically and literally in Lawson’s finely written book. I leave you, dear reader, your own pleasurable adventures with her through its host of colors and meanings."

North American Rock Garden Society, "Book of the Month"

"This comprehensive treatment of the botanical genus Primula is part of the Reaktion's Botanical series, which integrates plant groups' horticultural and botanical information with social and cultural information about the group. Primroses are among the most important garden flowers, particularly in Europe. . . . The book is beautifully crafted, rich with colorful illustrations, and written in a straightforward style that includes many anecdotes. Recommended."


"Primrose is full of fascinating historical information. . . . The book certainly broadened my perspective on the history of primroses. It is delightful reading. I urge you to delve into this well researched and informative book. . . . Your next walk down the primrose path will give you a whole new appreciation for the primula species."

Journal of the American Primrose Society

"Reaktion Books’ Botanical series continues to impress. Primrose is yet another triumph to add to the growing collection. This is a well-written, profusely illustrated, plethora of primulacean pulchritude, anecdotes, and cultural history: Read it!"

Botany One

"The simple beauty of our native primulas has captured the hearts of people over the centuries and this book is both a record and a celebration of that close attachment. . . . A plant of such widespread appeal has, as might be imagined, permeated many aspect of our society and culture and the author cites interesting examples of its place in literature, music, and even politics. Such a broader view of primroses adds greatly to our appreciation and enjoyment of these plants and shows that along with their simple beauty and endearing appeal, primroses also have a cultural niche in our society. To read of these other aspects of primroses is to enjoy them all the more. This book provides that opportunity."

Paddy Tobin | An Irish Gardener

"I was impressed by the exquisite binding and quality of the printing and contents. . . . The book is lavishly illustrated and Lawson has unearthed many new pictures and paintings of the Primula family. . . . This volume provides a refreshingly new and erudite perspective on the Primula family which will be enjoyed by Primula lovers worldwide."

Val Wooley, auricula breeder and horticulturalist

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