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A long time ago, you could only find them on the slopes of remote mountain ranges in Asia, but today they are the very symbol of modern genetics, a species unrivalled for the variety of colors and forms that breeders can create: tulips. In this book, Celia Fisher traces the story of this important and highly popular plant, from its mountain beginnings to its prevalence in the gardens of Mughal, Persian, and Ottoman potentates; from its migration across the Silk Road to its explosive cultivation in the modern European world.
Fisher looks at how tulips’ intensely saturated color has made them an important species for botanists and gardeners. Initially rare in sixteenth century Netherlands, tulips sparked such frenzy among aristocratic collectors that they caused the first economic bubble and collapse. Exploring the ways cultivators have created one hybrid after another—in an astonishing range of colors and shapes—Fisher also shows how tulips have inspired art and literature throughout the centuries, from Ottoman Turkey to the paintings of the Dutch Masters, from Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Black Tulip to contemporary artist David Cheung painting them atop pages of the Financial Times. Stunningly illustrated, this book offers a unique cultural history of one of our most important flowers.