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The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Anna Pavord

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29. November 2005
An exhilarating new book from the author of the worldwide bestseller The Tulip.

The Naming of Names traces the search for order in the natural world, a search that for hundreds of years occupied some of the most brilliant minds in Europe.

Redefining man’s relationship with nature was a major pursuit during the Renaissance. But in a world full of poisons, there was also an urgent practical need to name and recognize different plants, because most medicines were made from plant extracts.

Anna Pavord takes us on a thrilling adventure into botanical history, traveling from Athens in the third century BC, through Constantinople, Venice, the medical school at Salerno to the universities of Pisa and Padua. The journey, traced here for the first time, involves the culture of Islam, the first expeditions to the Indies and the first settlers in the New World.

In Athens, Aristotle’s pupil Theophrastus was the first man ever to write a book about plants. How can we name, sort, and order them? He asked. The debate continues still, two thousand years later. Sumptuously illustrated in full colour, The Naming of Names gives a compelling insight into a world full of intrigue and intensely competitive egos.

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'A thrilling adventure into botanical history, and a compelling insight into a world full of intrigue and intensely competitive egos' Royal Horticultural Society 'Her glorious book, inspired by a passion that matches theirs, is itself a memorial to all those who collected, drew and named plants in the past, sumptuously illustrated' Sunday Times 'A book to be dipped into at delicious leisure, to savour over time' Vogue 'I simply adored The Naming of Names, Anna Pavord's beautifully written, gloriously illustrated history of how brilliant men from the days of Aristotle attempted to classify the world's plants' Jilly Cooper, Daily Telegraph Books of the Year -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.


For centuries, some of the most brilliant minds in Europe searched for the rules of nature's game. In a world full of plagues and poisons, many medicines were made from plant extracts and there was a practical need to differentiate between one plant and another. Alongside this was an overwhelming desire to make sense of the natural world. Scholars, aided by the artists who painted the first pictures of plants, set out looking, writing and classifying, but 2,000 years were to pass before any rules became clear. Anna Pavord takes us on an exhilarating and fascinating journey through botanical history, travelling from Athens in the third century BC, through Constantinople and Venice, Padua and Pisa to the present day. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.8 von 5 Sternen  6 Rezensionen
51 von 52 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen How We Understood the Plants 7. Dezember 2005
Von R. Hardy - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
The natural world presents innumerable objects which humans have needed to categorize and name; animals, germs, stars, storms, rocks, and other huge kingdoms have eventually been broken down into types and grouped so that we could begin to understand them. Such a process of categorization may have taken many centuries, and we have gotten better at it with a scientific understanding of the world, but the impulse has been there for as long as we have been thinking about the things around us. Plants have been one huge kingdom we have tried to understand in such a way, and in _The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants_ (Bloomsbury), Anna Pavord has made a big, magnificent book about this effort. She has dug back to the ancient Greeks, and shown how thinkers through the medieval ages and Renaissance tried to get a grasp on the disorderly plant kingdom, with eventual success even before the taxonomic standards laid down by Linnaeus which we still follow. It is, surprisingly, the pre-Linnaean efforts that Pavord has chronicled; at the end of the book, she gives an admittedly grudging nod to Linnaeus, who generally got plant classification wrong (and shocked eighteenth century bishops, since his classification dwelt on the "loathsome harlotry" of the immoral sexual behavior of the flowers). The story up to that time, however, makes for wonderful scholarship and tributes to the plantsmen who eventually made the jungle comprehensible.

Pavord has much to say about the Greek philosopher Theophrastus, not only in the beginning of the book, but throughout it, as she admires the depth of his accomplishments and wishes that all subsequent classifiers had been so careful. Theophrastus was a friend and successor to Aristotle. Pavord is critical of many authors, and of the way their books look to us now. There is a history of plant illustration within these pages. Pliny had been against illustrations of plants in books, because they would have been copied badly; pictures were also difficult to integrate within the original system of scrolls. The eventual woodcuts did not have to be crude, with many reproduced here showing swirling masses of plants or delicate leaves in fine detail. The final engravings that became included in plant books could show enough useful detail to be excellent field guides, although for centuries authors relied on previous works of folklore. The famous but flawed _Herball_ (1597) of John Gerard ("a plagiarist and a crook") showed a realistic picture of a barnacle tree (denominated _Britannica concha anatifera_), the tree that was said to produce barnacle geese. Pavord's book is big, and is lavishly illustrated, with a third of the pages being taken up with illustrations (most in color) nicely keyed to her text.

Along with Theophrastus, Pavord's highest praise goes to Englishman John Ray, who in 1696 coined the term "botany". He provided six rules by which to categorize plants, not only the ones familiar to him in England, but the spectacular finds being brought from distant lands. Others had previously insisted on classifying plants by use, which was entirely artificial, or more helpfully by leaf or seed form, but it was Ray who put botany on its first real foundation by noting the distinction of seeds that sprout with one leaf or two (we still classify monocotyledon and dicotyledon). He had made scientific order ascendant in his field. He knew he was part of an ongoing process, predicting that future botanists would look back and "our proudest discoveries will seem slight, obvious, almost worthless." He might have been right, but seen as a tribute to their efforts, _The Naming of Names_ shows how these discoveries, achieved over the centuries by curious, devoted, and fallible plantsmen, have brought us to our current understandings. Pavord's book essentially ends with Ray, barely mentioning the recent advances that have been made with DNA testing; such tests have confirmed much of what was eventually realized as the evolutionary tree, but have upset other parts as well. It has been a long botanical trip, and Pavord's deep scholarship and inclusion of gorgeous illustrations make the journey enormous fun.
10 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Thorough Review of the Roots of Taxonomy 9. November 2006
Von Lisa T. Thoerle - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
This book may be more than the casual reader bargained for. As noted in the prior excellent and very thorough review, this book focuses on pre-Linnean taxonomy. The writing is not sprightly, but if you are seriously interested in this topic, you will find as much pleasure in this book as I did. The illustrations are plentiful and often beautiful, and are as much a part of the story as the taxonomy.
6 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Great Book! 9. Februar 2008
Von Franco Folini - Veröffentlicht auf
Great book! Amazing illustrations.
The author is very good at telling a long history of over 2000 years on how a standard taxonomy was created for all plants and living things.

For some reason Anna Pavord likes to divide all the historical characters in "good guys" and "bad guys". May be it is true, but sometime reading the book I have the impression of watching an Hollywood movie. But don't worry, as in every respectable Hollywood film, the good guys at the end will prevail.

The battle to establish a set of universal conventions to name plats is not yet over! For example take a look at Wikipedia (the English version) and you will see that the scientific notation is not used as a standard way to name plants. For reason I completely ignore many Americans still prefer the ambiguous local notation over the scientific one (not surprising, they still discussing about creationism...).
5.0 von 5 Sternen Five Stars 17. Juli 2014
Von michele - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Great!! Thanks, very fast and as described
4 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A long walk through many gardens 2. August 2007
Von Harry Eagar - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
"The Naming of Names" is a lot of things, but the greatest value and pleasure comes from its many illustrations. There are about 160 of them, most full page (in a large quarto size) and many in color. About 125 are from early manuscript or printed plant books or from the paintings of plants that were later converted into woodcuts.

A half dozen are from Otto Brunfels' "Herbarium vivae eicones" of 1530-36, which is generally considered the first modern illustrated plant book. Author Anna Pavord does not think much of Brunfels' text, but the illustrations by Hans Weiditz (pupil of Durer) are famous -- and hard to find. No modern reprint of "Herbarium vivae eicones" is available, so "The Naming of Names" is probably the cheapest and most easily obtained look at Weiditz' important technique.

There also are many examples from Leonhart Fuchs' important "De Historia stirpium." You can find a modern facsimile of this 1542 book, but it will set you back about $300.

So, "The Naming of Names" is a bargain source of pretty plant pictures. What of the text? This is not so satisfactory.

There are a number of attractive features about Pavord's writing. It seems all Englishwomen and men can write lyrically about the countryside, and Pavord is no exception.

She covers a great deal of countryside, too, from Kent to Kazakhstan. These mini-travelogues are the most pleasurable parts of the book.

"The Naming of Names" has the defects of its qualities. It is discursive, informal, occasionally witty, and repetitive. Pavord has an irritating habit of slipping in and out of the historical present tense for no discernible reason.

Her thesis can be compactly stated, although the exposition is extensive, almost to the point of tedium, because of the repetitions.

First came Theophrastus, who asked, what are plants, how do we distinguish among them? He had a philosophical outlook but many who followed were more concerned that the "simples" gathered by "ignorant women" were actually the plants that the educated doctors believed were effective remedies.

But since there was not even a vocabulary available to describe whole plants or their parts, it was impossible for the savants to be sure they were talking about the same plant. (Or animal, since during the span of this book, corals were thought to be plants.)

It took about 2,000 years for Theophrastus' question to be answered, finally, by John Ray. In between, plantsmen had many adventures -- not a few either fled for their lives or lost them during the wars of religion. (Pavord, like so many English Protestants, hasn't quite declared an armistice.)

Sometimes it felt as if it was going to take another 2,000 years for Pavord to get to her point, but in the end she does. Gardeners in temperate climes have a lot of time to read during the winter, anyway, and "The Naming of Names" makes a nice change from dreaming over seed catalogues and waiting for spring.
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