Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Herbarium Amoris - A Book Review

Herbarium Amoris by Edvard Koinberg
($29.19 and free shipping at Amazon)
Taschen America LLC

I've been fascinated by herbariums ever since I first found out what they were. Towards the end of the 19th century, it became popular to collect specimens of plants, including foliage and flowers, press them and preserve them. Properly done, each was labeled with their Latin name, common name, where collected, and when. I have actually started one of my own, with plants grown in my garden.

Edvard Koinberg, a Swedish photographer and gardener, has done an herbarium using plants he's grown in his garden, too. Except his herbarium consists of photographs of those plants, not the actual plants themselves.

The remarkable thing about his photos are not necessarily the plants, but the intimate way in which he has photographed them. Inspired by fellow Swede Carl Linnaeus, considered to be the father of binomial nomenclature and taxonomy, Koinberg focuses on the sexual parts of plants. By human comparison, this collection is surely X-rated, but worthy of a venerated spot in every library.

Rarely has a book had such an effect on me as this one. Within five minutes of browsing through its pages of breathtaking images, I was nearly moved to tears. I don't need to tell a gardener about the unbelievable beauty and intricacies that each flower holds and perhaps seeing them up close and personal in this way won't elicit such a strong response from everyone, but as I felt my throat tightening, my reaction surprised even myself. I don't normally do this in response to pictures of flowers.

Each image has been created under perfect conditions - perfect lighting, black background, perfect angles. The flowers themselves aren't always perfect though, in fact, some of the most beautiful photos are of spent flowers and dusky seedheads. The photos are arranged according to the calendar year, with the first photos showing a flower's beginnings and the last ones as the flower gives way to dying petals, just as they do in the garden.

The book is coffee table material, being of typical size for such tomes, and that's the best place for it, so it can be enjoyed by those who happen to sit within arm's reach of it. There are 280 pages and at a list price of $39.99 (Amazon price $29.19 and free shipping), there's really no excuse not to own it or give it as a gift. It's worth far more than its cost.

Edvard Koinberg was born in 1964 in Stockholm, Sweden. He has worked as a freelance photographer and graphic designer since 1989, commissioned by press, businesses and organizations. The last few years he has focused on personal projects, where plants and gardens are recurring themes, which has resulted in a number of exhibitions. He has sought to depict plants following the artistic tradition of the Swedish Age of Enlightenment. Dutch painters from the 17th and 18th centuries have also been important inspirations. You may learn more about Koinberg and his work by visiting his website.

The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

This sounds like a must have Kylee. I would love to see your herbarium.

garden girl said...

Sounds like a wonderful book Kylee! Thanks for the great review.

Kathryn said...

Frances at Fairegarden photos sometime make me tear up. This one looks definately worth checking out. Thanks, Kylee. Kathryn (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ My dad cut the wood for the covers and I have them painted, but want to paint a floral illustration on the cover yet. I've got oodles of flowers pressed, but not yet mounted. I need to get my act together and PUT it together, don't I? When I do, you can be sure I'll blog about it!

Linda ~ It really is just one gorgeous photo after another!

Kathryn ~ I'm so glad to hear there's another "softie" out there like me. Frances does indeed post some gorgeous photos! I think many people have become teary-eyed over a movie or a book, so it seems natural to me (now) to have a beautiful piece of art cause this response from me.

Welcome to Our Little Acre! :-)

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I never got around to blogging about it, but I recently went on a tour of the University of Michigan Herbarium--it was entirely fascinating. I don't think it's always open to the public, but it was a great tour because the director is hilarious!

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