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Book Review - The Orchid in Lore and Legend

The Orchid in Lore and Legend by Luigi Berliocchi is a beautiful book and would be a valuable addition to the library of any orchid lover. Mr. Berliocchi was an author and garden lecturer at an Italian university. This Timber Press translation from the original Italian version was edited by Mark Griffiths.

The book begins with a chapter covering myths and legends about orchids. One interesting story tells about the origins of the European name for Cypripedium calceolus. This orchid is called Venus's slipper and takes that name from a legend involving Venus and Adonis. The Latin name Cypripedium comes from Cyprus, which was the sacred island of Venus.

Next comes a chapter on "Orchids from Prehistory to History" covering Eastern and Western world history. The first modern students of orchids came along in the second half of the 17th century. Several early researcher and collectors are profiled. Chapter 3 goes into more stories about some of the early orchid hunters and the wealthy patrons that became obsessed with collecting more and more orchids.

"Arts and Customs" covers orchids in literature, art, magic, religion, medicine and cuisine. Examples and illustrations highlight many of the sections in this chapter. Chapter 5 gives a fascinating look at orchid habitats, plant structure and the pollinators of various orchids.

The chapter titled "The Genera" highlights several of the most popular orchid types in both text and illustrations. The final chapter, Growing Orchids, contains growing tips and information on lighting, moisture, humidity, potting media and temperature.

I have not even touched on my favorite part of the book, however. Nearly every page contains at least one illustration. These include black and white drawings, woodcuts, photographs and period color plates from The Orchid Album by Warner and Williams. These fascinating illustrations really contribute a lot to the overall enjoyment of this book.

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