cloth, 184 p., $22.95
In reviewing a book on orchids, particularly if it's lavishly photographed, one is apt to lose oneself in admiration of the unreal beauty of the flowers at the expense of the text. Fortunately, the author of this book has wisely limited himself to 16 color plates judiciously placed at the rear of the volume, giving his story every chance to stand on its own merit. And a fascinating story it is, too. How can it not be, since the orchid is his subject, and anything associated with this complex flower cannot help but be of interest!
Berliocchi tells a factual account of the orchid's relationship to man, beginning in ancient times and continuing to the present, touching on the myths surrounding the flower, the orchid's role in literature, art, magic, religion, medicine, even cuisine, all while enlivening his history with bits of orchid lore and legend. There are biographical notes on some of the famous botanists who added to knowledge of the plant, as well as brief sketches of the orchid hunters who risked their lives to bring these exotic beauties out of the jungle. The book ends with a discussion of the plant itself, describing the orchid's structure and habitat, along with the many varieties and their cultures. Supplementing the previously mentioned color plates are numerous black and white photographs and charmingly executed pencil drawings. For anyone with a passing interest in orchids, this is a delightful book.
— Jim Kemper