First Contact, Cult of Progress
David Olusoga explores the role of art in the moments of first contact, interaction and conflict between different civilizations, first in the Age of Discovery when Europe’s early imperialists encountered the indigenous peoples and art of other continents: contacts that resulted in mutual curiosity as well as conquest. In Part Two, The Cult of Progress, Olusoga looks at artistic reaction to post-industrial modernization in the 19th and early 20th centuries, ending with Otto Dix’s great triptych, The War (1932).
Late Roman Luxury Glasses
Displaying ‘aesthetic refinement and technical finesse second to none’, Roman cage cups are glass vessels decorated with delicate openwork, sometimes including an inscribed toast (‘Drink! For many years’). This book identifies the dates and locations of cage cups’ production, describes their characteristic shapes and colours and addresses different theories about the manufacturing processes that were used by ancient glassworkers. A catalogue presents more than 80 examples, each with commentary and bibliography.
A Natural History of the Hedgerow
And Ditches, Dykes and Dry Stone Walls
From where I sit writing Postscript entries, I look out on an old Devon hedgerow and an ancient stone wall; John Wright's Natural History has rendered them both very much more interesting. The book covers the origins and history of such boundaries; the present condition of hedgerows and the need to preserve them; the amazing array of fauna and flora they support; and other ways of making boundaries, from movable hazel hurdles to dry stone walls (mine, I've learned, is the 'random rubble' type).
The Cabaret of Plants
Botany and the Imagination
Challenging the view of plants as passive vegetation, Mabey approaches them as ’authors of their own lives’ and explores our relationship with them, from prehistoric cave painting, through cultivation and exploration to the ‘astonishing revelations of 19th-century botany’. Among the intriguing plants whose lives he discusses are the baobab tree; ginseng, the panacea; the carnivorous tipitiwitchet; an Amazonian giant water lily whose leaves were the model for the Crystal Place; and the intelligence of mimosa.
The Language of Science from the Fall of Latin to the Rise of English
From ancient Roman poetry to attempts to communicate with extra-terrestrials, Professor Gordin traces the history of ‘the set of languages by means of which scientific knowledge has been produced and communicated’. He shows not only the progression from languages as varied as the nationalities of scientists to the present ‘monoglot international community’ of scientists communicating in English, but also how the dominance of English was never a foregone conclusion.
At The Edge of Uncertainty
11 Discoveries Taking Science by Surprise
While investigating the universe, scientists also discover the broad horizon of their ignorance. As Brooks demonstrates, this uncertainty creates fertile ground for radical theories, such as the Big Bang and natural selection, which are often dismissed out of hand when first proposed. The new perspectives collected here illustrate how this process continues in such thrilling and dangerous ideas as the merging of human and non-human species and the application of quantum physics to biology.