It’s been a bumper year for beautiful books. I’ve acquired some absolutely gorgeous titles for browsing, inspiring, informing and entertaining. Lots of them are botanical or home related. I’ve rounded up my pick of the best – have a look and see if you agree! I still like to go into a shop and browse before I buy a book. That’s exactly how I found my first choice and my very latest acquisition, The New Herbal of 1543, published by Taschen (£17.99).
I spotted this on my first visit to the very beautiful Petersham Nurseries shop in King Street, Covent Garden yesterday. It’s a facsimile of a book published by physician and botanist Leonhard Fuchs (1501 – 1566). More than 400 European and exotic plants are described in this book, and there’s a stunning woodcut on every page.
Then there is the gorgeous writing alongside (okay it’s all in German, so this is a pictorial reference only for me). Often, I’m disappointed by too few illustrations in botanical reference books, but this one is absolutely bursting with them.
It gets five stars from me. And oh my goodness, the Petersham Nurseries shop is an experience, blending stunning chandeliers with flowers, greenery, and gorgeous items for the home and garden. It’s very expensive, but pop in even if it’s just for the inspiration. Have a look inside…
Still on the botanical theme, I really enjoyed Botanicum curated by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis (Big Picture Press). I have two of these, one is a smaller activity book derived from the larger format pictorial one. They’d be suitable for sharing with a child, as well as a treasure for yourself.
This is a celebration of the patterns and colours in nature, split into galleries and presented like a museum in a book. The illustrations by Katie Scott are simply amazing. I learnt a lot, but mainly I just love to pore over this book. If you like printing or painting, I’d say it’s a wonderful reference for shapes and forms. The activity book would be lovely for a young person or just someone who isn’t very confident about drawing, as there are some lovely ideas for sketching and copying some of the patterns.
Let’s take a brief break from the botanical world and move inside. I really enjoyed these two small books published by Thames & Hudson. They’re fabulous little guides to two interior looks that I much admire. I’m currently trying to simplify my own house, and Scandinavian Style at Home by Allan Torp was especially helpful for deconstructing the look. Working through a room at a time, it highlights classic items of furniture and accessories that capture the key elements of this beautifully calming style.
Just look at this room…
I love everything about it. The layout of both of these books is very clear, so they’re beautiful as well as practical. There are cut outs of individual objects, and then these are placed in context in a room.
Mid century Modern at Home by DC Hillier follows the same format. Again, it takes you straight to the heart of the look and covers everything from taps to tables.
Urban Flowers by Carolyn Dunster (Frances Lincoln) is one of those books that makes me want to get outside and immediately stuck into a project. It’s colourful, chic and the planting ideas and explanations are perfect for beginners. Jason Ingram has taken the photos in this title – he works for many of the top gardening magazines and his images are dreamy. So, for a mix of practical, pretty and contemporary ideas ideal for small gardens, this one is a top choice.
Here’s another one which could work for children or adults. I’ve seen it on sale in lots of museum shops and galleries. Hello Nature (Lawrence King) is your very own nature book packed with activities and facts. You can draw or doodle in it, get inspired by simple printing and growing projects, or go on a long walk to forage for some of the leaves and pebbles in the pages. It’s gorgeously illustrated by Nina Chakrabarti. A winner.
Love the design in Hello Nature!
Moving on, here is Botanical Sketchbooks, published by Thames & Hudson by Helen and William Bynum. It brings together a host of sketches from artists as diverse as Beatrix Potter to Edward Lear, John Constable and John Ruskin. Here is a selection of sketches made for research, for scientific research, or just for pure pleasure. There’s a nice background to each artist, some with amazing stories of travels. I’m a sucker for a sketchbook, and if you are too, you will love this.
Enjoy the selection!