Reproducing nearly 200 watercolor illustrations commissioned by the United States Department of Agriculture—which, in a nearly 60-year project cataloged more than 7500 varieties of fruit cultivated in the country—this compact and arrestingly handsome book is wonderful window into the history of American pomology.
In a fifteen-page introduction Yale historian Daniel J. Kevles nimbly connects printing technology history, the emerging field of botanical classification, and the careers of remarkably gifted artists with a rough-and-tumble world in which small farmers might make their fortune breeding or discovering something new and wonderful, or just as easily be taken in by fraudulent or ignorant purveyors.
Portraits such as these were part of an effort to create both a record and a common point of reference in an ever-evolving world. But they were not simply practical. They were often remarkably beautiful.
Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, blueberries, cherries, currants, feijoas, figs, gooseberries, grapes, grapefruit, guavas, lemons, loquats, mangos, olives, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, pomegranates, raspberries, sapodillas, strawberries, sweetsops—all of them are a delight to the eye here.
Hardcover. 128 pages. Color illustrations throughout.