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BOOK REVIEW: A Cornucopia of Fruit and Vegetables by Caroline Ball

| 25 September 2021 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: A Cornucopia of Fruit and Vegetables by Caroline Ball

Bodleian Library
May 2021
Hardcover, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Botanical Art / History 

65% Rocking

Plump apricots, juicy mangoes, crisp lettuce. We’re used to seeing close-up photographs of beautiful fruits and vegetables in cookbooks and garden guides. But these detailed illustrations of fruit and vegetables, as viewed through eighteenth-century eyes, are something very different — and more interesting. 

In the 1730s, a prosperous Bavarian apothecary, Johann Wilhelm Weinmann, produced the first volume of a comprehensive index of all available plants, meticulously documented and lavishly illustrated by botanical artists. A Cornucopia of Fruit & Vegetables is a glimpse into Weinmann’s world. It features exquisite illustrations of the edible plants in his historic treasury, allowing us to enjoy the sight of swan-necked gourds and horned lemons, smile at silkworms hovering over mulberries, and delight at the quirkiness of plants like ‘strawberry spinach.’ This volume is a delicious medley of garden produce and exotics that will capture the imagination of gardeners and art-lovers alike.



A Cornucopia of Fruit & Vegetables is the kind of book that you wouldn’t necessarily go seeking out specifically. But if you have a loved one who is a big art lover, interested in propagating a range of edible plants in their backyard garden, or some combination of the two, this is the kind of book you might stumble upon and snap it up, knowing they’re going to adore it.

The informative part of the book covers only thirty pages, but in these pages you will come to learn more about Weinmann and the artists he worked with, as well as the process of creating these illustrations and having them printed and bound in the 1700s. Those who have engaged in the creation of art might be stunned to learn that the original artist was commissioned to create a thousand images in the space of a year, and that the printer of the piece got more praise than the original creator of the work. 

Weinmann might not be the most likeable man, but there’s no denying he contributed to the understanding of fruits and vegetables that we have these days. The images are incredible, given the time-period, and of particular mention are the serving plates with evocative images printed almost three-hundred years ago.

This is a hard book to recommend, given the niche market it would appeal to. But if you have one of those people in your life who has a fascination with these subjects, you’ll realise just how ideal this book is for them!

Category: Book Reviews

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