I’m embarrassed to admit that I misunderstood the blurb about this book on the Mini Book Expo site, so I was very surprised to realize A Wood Engraver’s Alphabet by Gerard Brender à Brandis contains no words past the three-page introduction, other than the names of the 26 plants illustrated.
Although I am, in some small way, a “student of the complexities of nature’s creations,”* as I have studied herbology, my main interest is in wild medicinal plants, so I wasn’t familiar with many of the plants illustrated here. And I don’t really know anything about wood engraving. Disclaimers aside, this is a beautiful book: I love the texture of the book’s cover (which I can’t help stroking every time I pick it up), and the woodcuts themselves are intricate and lovely. A few of them seem too small to do justice to the details of the engravings, but for the most part I felt like I could spend hours gazing at each of them, marvelling at Brender à Brandis’s skill and meditating on each plant. My favourites are the pussy willow (which is actually on the dedication page), a small and delicate woodcut that so clearly bursts with life, and the Bird of Paradise, which has captured the paradoxical elegance and gawkiness of this amazing plant (and which also happens to be the largest illustration in the book). One small quibble: being a bit of a purist, I was disappointed that “FoXglove” was used to illustrate the letter X. (Are there no plants with names that start with X?)
For other reviews of this book, visit these sites:
Associated Content (Josh’s review) • Owl’s Court
Thank you to Mini Book Expo and The Porcupine’s Quill for sending me this book to review.
*According to the blurb on the back of this book, “This collection is intended both for the student of the complexities of nature’s creations and the patron of the intricate art of wood engraving.”