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Fruit: An Illustrated History

Fruit: An Illustrated History

by Peter Blackburne-Maze, Brian Self (Preface by)

A visual feast of stunning illustrations and authoritative text.

Fruit appears in art, mythology, and nearly every religious belief. The uses of fruit are varied: for food, drink, paint pigment, decoration, and medicine. The cultivation of fruit encouraged the development of plant propagation methods, grafting, hybridization, and selective breeding to


A visual feast of stunning illustrations and authoritative text.

Fruit appears in art, mythology, and nearly every religious belief. The uses of fruit are varied: for food, drink, paint pigment, decoration, and medicine. The cultivation of fruit encouraged the development of plant propagation methods, grafting, hybridization, and selective breeding to produce ever improved varieties.

In this book Blackburne-Maze challenges myths such as the story of Johnny Appleseed whose real name was John Chapman. The fable that he indiscriminately scattered seeds is admittedly the worst way to propagate fruit trees. In truth he established a chain of successful apple nurseries that stretched from Pennsylvania to Indiana.

Fruit is illustrated with 300 large, striking and superbly reproduced color illustrations from the Lindley Library of the Royal
Horticultural Society. Created by the finest botanical artists, these graceful illustrations are notable for their historical value in chronicling the evolution of fruit and as masterpieces in their own right. Included are varieties of fruit now extinct or no longer in widespread cultivation.

The book is organized into the 4 major fruit groups and covers 61 varieties:

  • Pome (apples, pears, etc.)
  • Stone (plum, cherry, peach, etc.)
  • Berry (currant, blueberry, etc.)
  • Exotic (fig, citrus, olive, almond, etc.)

A companion volume to the critically acclaimed and extremely popular, Flora, this book will appeal to gardeners, art lovers, and food connoisseurs.

Editorial Reviews

Winnipeg Free Press - Linda Stilkowski
The history of fruit spans more than 5,000 years of cultivation... illustrated with luscious works of art from the finest botanical painters.
National Gardeners Magazine - Joanne S. Carpender
Exquisite art volume... the superb illustrations were produced by great artists including William Hooker and Pierre Antoine Poiteau.
Succulent book and its delectable drawing tell the story of fleshy, seed-bearing fruits.
Houston Chronicle - Kathy Huber
Beautifully illustrated... an obvious gift choice for the home gardener with a special interest in fruit. It also will appeal to the history buff.
American Reference Books Annual, Volume 36 - Carol Noll
This large-format volume is a curious combination of art book, history book, and gardening book. Despite the informative and delightfully low-key text on the history of cultivated fruits, the art predominates.
AHA Quarterly (American Herb Association)
I was first struck by how the bold, contemporary design of this beautiful (and hefty) book magnificently presents such a delicious topic!
Globe and Mail
Lavish illustrations dominate the text... Give this one to the apple of your eye.
Toronto Star - Peter Goddard
Loads of history and trivia for the more historically minded among gardeners.
Vancouver Sun - Steve Whysall
The fruit book will surprise you. Who would have thought the story of the apple, pear, banana, plum, orange and so on could be so fascinating? But it is. I was amused and amazed.
Associated Press - Ron Berthel
A botanical and social history of fruits, from ancient times to today.
House and Garden - Katrine Ames
A remarkably informative text and superb illustrations... this is the season's most delectable book.
Vogue - Leslie Camhi
Mouth-wateringly beautiful album of botanical illustrations... Visions of sugarplums never looked so sweet.
Hamilton Spectator - Robert Howard
This gorgeous large book compiles 300 color botanical paintings of fruit... a readable interesting text.
E-Streams - Peter Hepburn
Will likely enlighten but assuredly will delight. While this oversize book may have the appearance of a coffee-table type item, it is, in fact, a fascinating reference book, a guide to wide variety of fruits.
Science News
Stunning... inviting conversational style. Color illustrations from the archives of the Royal Horticultural Society are featured on every two-page spread.
Booklist / RBB - Alice Joyce
A joyful celebration... lushly produced... exquisitely detailed renderings of mesmerizing botanical illustrations... traces the cultivation and cultural aspects of sweet-flavored fruits.
Canadian Gardening - Patrick Lima
Filled with seldom-seen botanical art... a fascinating (and mouth-watering) horticultural realm.
New York Times - Penelope Lively
Elegantly illustrated — pages of mouthwatering color — and has a careful and scholarly text.
Calgary Herald - Catherine Ford
Lush, lavish and almost lascivious in their treatment of botany.
Choice - D.H. Pfister
Beautifully illustrated book... well reproduced in a large, weighty folio.
Publishers Weekly
On its own, this mouth-watering tribute to a delicious topic appeals on many levels. As another in Firefly's Royal Horticultural Society's series, it's a knockout. Like its companions, Flora and Roses, it showcases carefully selected, magnificently presented illustrations from the RHS's Lindley Library. The accompanying text and captions have much to offer readers of many stripes. Gardeners will learn about growing and propagating fruits, and selecting varieties that best suit their needs. The historically inclined will relish tales of fruits from myth, legend and fact ("Johnny Appleseed" was no seed-spreader, but a commercial orchardist-entrepreneur). Food lovers will discover the origins of their preferred produce and how it may have been selected for its essential qualities. Apples, for example, are allocated for cider, cooking or eating according to their acidity, sweetness and aroma. Similarly, grapes are appropriate for eating out of hand or for winemaking, but not always both. Its informative and fascinating text notwithstanding, this is ultimately an art book. The 300 plates are showcased in a large-format, expansive layout that preserves or improves the quality of the originals. Brief biographies of the notable artists further illuminate their work, all of which is carefully credited in a comprehensive index. As with the other volumes in this series, the bold design gives the timeless images a contemporary graphic edge. Here, given the subject, it is also sweetly-almost seductively-sensuous. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Blackburne-Maze grew fruit commercially before working as a horticultural adviser and garden writer. His lavishly illustrated coffee-table book gives an overview of the history of fruit from apples and peaches to more exotic fruits like breadfruit and loquats. Following a short introduction, relatively brief text in each of the book's four main sections ("Pome," "Stone," "Berry," and "Exotic") describes the origins and expanding ranges of the fruit and their history, cultivation, mythology, uses, and varieties.The heart of the book, however, is the beautiful, full-color, botanically accurate paintings of luscious-looking whole fruits, cut fruits, and their flowers. Obtained from the archives of the Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley Library, London, each plate is captioned with information specific to the variety, including variety name, scientific name, and facts about taste, uses, and history. This stunning book is interesting and very browsable, but the subject matter and cost make this oversize volume better suited to horticultural/botanical libraries and academic libraries than to public libraries.-Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.50(w) x 12.50(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Blackburne-Maze is a leading expert in the history and cultivation of fruit. He is the author of many books and regularly contributes to Garden News, The Kitchen Garden, and The Garden (the Royal Horticultural Society's journal).

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