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Seeds: Time Capsules of Life

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"Who would have thought that a book about seeds could be a stunning work of art? ... Anyone who believes that life and art are inseparable will want to purchase this book immediately." — Choice

The publication of the first edition of Seeds broke new ground by melding art and science in a beautiful yet authoritative examination of the design and function of seeds. This new edition contains 60 spectacular new photographs published here for the first time. In addition, the book ...

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Overview

"Who would have thought that a book about seeds could be a stunning work of art? ... Anyone who believes that life and art are inseparable will want to purchase this book immediately." — Choice

The publication of the first edition of Seeds broke new ground by melding art and science in a beautiful yet authoritative examination of the design and function of seeds. This new edition contains 60 spectacular new photographs published here for the first time. In addition, the book contains a fully updated chapter about the Millennium Seed Bank Project and its recent acquisitions.

Microphotographs and detailed cutaway images reveal the intricate architecture of pods, pouches, keys and nuts of various sizes, from minute to relatively enormous. Concise text explains their formation and maturation and describes the clever dispersal methods that set off each plant's reproduction cycle. Literary references and early botanical illustrations complement the scientific perspective and create a comprehensive collection of data.

This new edition of Seeds, with its new images and updated text, is truly remarkable and will be welcomed by botanists, serious gardeners and collectors of unusual art.

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Editorial Reviews

The Midwest Book Review - Diane C. Donovan
Stunning ... astonishing images.
Ottawa Citizen - Mike Gillespie
Spectacular... a delicious combination of eye-candy and brain-food... The format is quite brilliant in that it encourages a concentrated examination of the seeds, awakening a more perceptive understanding and appreciation, beyond merely identifying them.
West Hawaii Today - Clear Englebert
Spectacular... a delicious combination of eye-candy and brain-food... The format is quite brilliant in that it encourages a concentrated examination of the seeds, awakening a more perceptive understanding and appreciation, beyond merely identifying them.
Melville Newsday - Jessica Damiano
Like a walk through a mystifying alien universe... astounding images of seed... awe-inspiring beauty. Accompanied by fascinating scientific descriptions.
Bloomsbury Review - Kim Long
Magnetic... much in the way of information as well: basic descriptions of plant cycles, the history of botanical science, functions of seeds and pollen, and, also enhancing the artistic angle, the history of illustration of the subjects. Large, glossy, elegant, and a treat.
January Magazine - Linda L. Richards
Astonishing, possibly even groundbreaking... beautiful almost beyond description. You've never seen botanical photography quite like this.
Bookwatch
Alexandra Papadakis edits this stunning natural history of seeds, which uses an oversized format/presentation to display close-up photos and electron microscopy images of seed evolution. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew are involved in this reference's publication, which obtains some astonishing images and focuses on the diversity, design and function of seeds the world over.
Science Books and Films - Carole Saravitz
Breathtaking... a great combination of beautiful photographs and well-written text that packs in a lot of detail and will be interesting to both the novice and the experienced biologist... a beautiful, well-written, easy-to-follow book.
Chicago Tribune - Beth Botts
[reviewed with Pollen] These are the most ravishing biology lessons we've ever seen, with spectacular photos that will make you rethink your plants and text that makes [the books] worth keeping.... An enlightening gift or a personal indulgence.
The Lanark Era - Helen Halpenny
264 pages of wonder and beauty that you will want on your coffee table, handy to browse through and learn from in the cold winter months.
Globe and Mail
[Globe and Mail 2006 Holiday Gift Book selection] A gloriously illustrated work that will fascinate anyone interested in plants, and that is a splendid piece of art in its own right.
Victoria Times Colonist - Barbara Julian
Bright color and deep magnification show us the stunning range of shapes and detail hidden in the microworld.
Columbus Dispatch - Mark Ellis
Full of interesting nuggets.
Audubon - Peter Friederici
In Kesseler's stunning photographs,... the ingenious mechanisms of dispersal stand exposed as evolutionary wizardry.... Forget anything you may have thought about the carefully segregated protocols of science and art.
Discover - Sarah Richardson
Lavish... document[s] the astonishing complexity of botanical sex.
Phoenix Home and Garden
This large-format coffee-table book contains breathtaking photographs.
Booklist - Carol Haggas
Visual artist Kesseler unveils the delicate artistry and vibrant wizardry of these horticultural workhorses in an incandescent blend of exacting science and extraordinary art... Stuppy energetically relates the story of some 300 million years of evolutionary adaptations.
Globe and Mail - Carolyn Leitch
Images so astonishingly vivid that they verge on the bizarre... the photos in this album are spellbinding.
Natural History - Laurence A. Marschall
Multi-armed hooked spheres that catch on passing fur, to delicate, winged laceworks that float on the wind. If plants could read, they might be appalled to see their sex lives explored so up close and personal, but we human beings can only marvel and delight.
Cleveland Plain Dealer - Suzanne Hively
The facts are fascinating, and dynamic art will ensure that you never look at a plant in the same way again.
National Post - Liz Primeau
[reviewed with Pollen] These books ... will be appreciated by gardeners and nature lovers who also dig art. They're both gorgeous and educational ... Kesseler's microphotography is fabulous ... It's fascinating to be reminded that plants reproduce sexually in much the same way humans do, except plants perfected the skill millennia before we did.
Minneapolis Star Tribune - Jarrett Smith
[reviewed with Pollen] Science joins hands with art. ... wallops you with closeups of flowers' "birds and bees" bits and then pairs them with electron microscopy images of the same plant's pollen grains. The effect is stunning. ...will, of course, be of interest to the gardener, but more important, the dazzling images will inspire the artist.
Style at Home - Kat Tancock
["Style at Home"'s Top Coffee Table Book] The images in this book are astounding... an almost alien beauty.
Nature
A natural history of seeds showcasing their specialized architecture in stunning close-up photographs and scanning electron micrographs.
London Free Press - Ken Smith
This is a landmark effort of gorgeous photography and authoritative text. This is, in the truest sense of the word, a table-top masterpiece.
Gardening Life - Catherine Therrien
The magnificence of Seeds... is beyond compare: hundreds of pages of stunning photography and fascinating information.
Kitchener-Waterloo Record - David Hobson
Filled with stunning photographs created with electron microscopy.
Choice - J.C. Shane
Who would have thought that a book about seeds could be a stunning work of art? ... Anyone who believes that life and art are inseparable will want to purchase this book immediately. The larger-than-life photographs and the unabashedly bold stories of plants and their survival mechanisms will appeal to a wide variety of readers. Highly Recommended. All levels.
Nature
A natural history of seeds showcasing their specialized architecture in stunning close-up photographs and scanning electron micrographs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554072217
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 9/12/2006
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 12.37 (w) x 11.37 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Rob Kesseler is a visual arts professor and artist. Since 2001 he has been working with microscopic plant material at London's Royal Botanic Gardens.

Wolfgang Stuppy is a seed morphologist for the Millennium Seed Bank at London's Royal Botanic Gardens. His work furthers the bank's efforts to safeguard 24,000 plant species from around the globe.

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Read an Excerpt

Seeds: Time Capsules of Life

There is a magical appeal, rooted in childhood, in watching seeds develop: the acorn in its neatly fitting cup or the polished, rich brown surface of the horse chestnut as it emerges from its spiny shell. These sensuous forms draw us closer to nature: temporal touchstones rolled between fingers, stuffed into pockets or left to slowly shrivel on windowsills. Then there is the poppy, with its flame red petals that quickly fall as the fruit ripens into its familiar capsule, the crop of seeds trapped inside, rattling like miniature maracas until the cap lifts and they are eventually dispersed.

Holding a small seed in one's hand it is sometimes difficult to comprehend that given the right conditions a complex and beautiful plant will emerge from it. Seeds are the beginning and end of the life cycle of plants, carriers of the genetic codes that will ensure successful propagation and continuation of the species. Their resilience is renowned: seeds taken from dried herbarium samples have been successfully germinated over two hundred years after they were collected. Their diversity of form and scale is as extensive as the plants from which they derive, from the giant coco de mer weighing up to twenty kilos to the almost dust-like seeds of the orchid family where one gram can contain more than 2 million seeds.

Until the seventeenth century the study of plants had largely been for medicinal or horticultural purposes, but taking advantage of the new compound microscope developed by chemist and physicist Robert Hooke, pioneering botanists such as Nehemiah Grew and John Ray were among the first to describe the structure and reproductivemechanisms of seeds. Fuelled with this new knowledge, a new breed of explorers and plant hunters were bringing back to Europe exotic flowers and plants to be cultivated by a growing number of botanists and plantsmen. This fuelled a competitive passion for growing flowering plants and subsequently for the gardens in which to display them, leading to a demand for ever more exotic varieties to fill the burgeoning hothouses and gardens of the nobility.

This growing passion laid the foundation for a more systematic approach to the collection and scientific study of plants with the creation of Botanic Gardens. In addition to living plants that miraculously survived the trials of being transported thousands of miles across land and sea, increasingly the collecting and trading of seeds became more commonplace. Today this has evolved into a multimillion pound industry to satisfy the demands of a highly educated population of garden enthusiasts. But more importantly, as environmental concerns have grown and the importance of the preservation of plant habitats for bio-diversity has been recognized, a network of highly trained seed collectors with local knowledge of endangered species has emerged. Their precious harvest is distributed among the many centers for botanical research around the world. In recognition of the urgent need for a concerted approach. the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, created the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place in Sussex in 2000. The Millennium Seed Bank Project has set itself the daunting but vital task of collecting and conserving by 2010 over 24,000 species -- of the world's seed-bearing flora.

In the eighteenth century, artists and scientists worked closely together to examine and portray the many complexities of life. In a revival of this collaborative spirit this book reunites the worlds of botanical science and art to reveal and celebrate the astounding diversity and complexity of seeds. As we worked together we marveled over the specimens in front of us and through our collaboration we hope to show you things you may have seen but never had the opportunity to examine in minute detail. In the natural world seeds are dispersed on the wind, carried on the backs of animals or eaten by birds and other animals to be deposited far from the original plant. They are dispersed by humans too -- as food transported across vast distances, as decorative items of jewelry, or accidentally when stuck to clothing. Through this book we hope to extend the strategy of dispersal to a new audiences.

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Table of Contents

Preface
HRH The Prince of Wales

Foreword
Professor Sir Peter Crane

Seeds: Time Capsules of Life
What is a Seed?
Seed Evolution
Naked Seeds
Flower Power Revolution
The Dispersal of Fruits and Seeds
Travellers in Space and Time
The Millennium Seed Bank
An Architectural Blueprint
Phytopia

Appendices
Glossary
Bibliography
Index of Plants Illustrated
Acknowledgements

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Preface

Seeds: Time Capsules of Life

There is a magical appeal, rooted in childhood, in watching seeds develop: the acorn in its neatly fitting cup or the polished, rich brown surface of the horse chestnut as it emerges from its spiny shell. These sensuous forms draw us closer to nature: temporal touchstones rolled between fingers, stuffed into pockets or left to slowly shrivel on windowsills. Then there is the poppy, with its flame red petals that quickly fall as the fruit ripens into its familiar capsule, the crop of seeds trapped inside, rattling like miniature maracas until the cap lifts and they are eventually dispersed.

Holding a small seed in one's hand it is sometimes difficult to comprehend that given the right conditions a complex and beautiful plant will emerge from it. Seeds are the beginning and end of the life cycle of plants, carriers of the genetic codes that will ensure successful propagation and continuation of the species. Their resilience is renowned: seeds taken from dried herbarium samples have been successfully germinated over two hundred years after they were collected. Their diversity of form and scale is as extensive as the plants from which they derive, from the giant coco de mer weighing up to twenty kilos to the almost dust-like seeds of the orchid family where one gram can contain more than 2 million seeds.

Until the seventeenth century the study of plants had largely been for medicinal or horticultural purposes, but taking advantage of the new compound microscope developed by chemist and physicist Robert Hooke, pioneering botanists such as Nehemiah Grew and John Ray were among the first to describe the structure and reproductive mechanisms of seeds. Fuelled with this new knowledge, a new breed of explorers and plant hunters were bringing back to Europe exotic flowers and plants to be cultivated by a growing number of botanists and plantsmen. This fuelled a competitive passion for growing flowering plants and subsequently for the gardens in which to display them, leading to a demand for ever more exotic varieties to fill the burgeoning hothouses and gardens of the nobility.

This growing passion laid the foundation for a more systematic approach to the collection and scientific study of plants with the creation of Botanic Gardens. In addition to living plants that miraculously survived the trials of being transported thousands of miles across land and sea, increasingly the collecting and trading of seeds became more commonplace. Today this has evolved into a multimillion pound industry to satisfy the demands of a highly educated population of garden enthusiasts. But more importantly, as environmental concerns have grown and the importance of the preservation of plant habitats for bio-diversity has been recognized, a network of highly trained seed collectors with local knowledge of endangered species has emerged. Their precious harvest is distributed among the many centers for botanical research around the world. In recognition of the urgent need for a concerted approach. the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, created the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place in Sussex in 2000. The Millennium Seed Bank Project has set itself the daunting but vital task of collecting and conserving by 2010 over 24,000 species — of the world's seed-bearing flora.

In the eighteenth century, artists and scientists worked closely together to examine and portray the many complexities of life. In a revival of this collaborative spirit this book reunites the worlds of botanical science and art to reveal and celebrate the astounding diversity and complexity of seeds. As we worked together we marveled over the specimens in front of us and through our collaboration we hope to show you things you may have seen but never had the opportunity to examine in minute detail.
In the natural world seeds are dispersed on the wind, carried on the backs of animals or eaten by birds and other animals to be deposited far from the original plant. They are dispersed by humans too — as food transported across vast distances, as decorative items of jewelry, or accidentally when stuck to clothing. Through this book we hope to extend the strategy of dispersal to a new audiences.

Read More Show Less

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