Of all the many passions and crazes in nineteenth-century gardening and
natural history, none was as long lasting or as wide reaching as fern fever.
Ferns were not just the obsession of a few professional botanists, nor even
of the thousands of amateur gardeners and naturalists, but held a popular fascination
for much of society. If you decorated and furnished your house, went to the seaside,
strolled in pleasure gardens, patronised the theatre and concerts, visited exhibitions,
read novels, played music, or spent time in hospital, you encountered ferns and
ferneries. In numerous ways Pteridomania, as fern madness was christened, epitomised
the exciting, enquiring, innovative, industrious, creative, and contradictory reign of
Queen Victoria in which it occurred.
This is part of a book I just finished reading, called Fern Fever: The Story of Pteridomania, written by Sarah Whittingham. This book describes the popularity of ferns in the nineteenth century in all its aspects.
It could be possible that the idea of a book about ferns does not seem to exciting. Think again! This book will make you love ferns and fern-collecting, even if you only had lukewarm feelings about ferns before. This book is definitely a pleasure to read. Even though it contains lots of information, it is written in a very pleasant and comprehendible style. Throughout the book there are many colour plates and interesting images. The text is very well researched and thorough, so that it will be an interesting read both for people who are new to ferns and for the expert fern-lover. The book incorporates a lot of background information and general information on the nineteenth century, making it a good all-round book to read. Definitely recommended for everyone who wants to contract fern fever, or is already feeling feverish!
Topics included are: how to collect ferns, fern equipment, women writers, collecting and cultivating ferns, fern furniture, and more.
(Image Courtesy of the National Library of Australia, Canberra. From Fern Fever: The Story of Pteridomania (c) Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Sarah Whittingham. US $60.00.)
A downside might be is that the book is very extensive, counting 240 pages. It’s so thorough though that noone will ever have to write about ferns any more, it really covers every subject.
Weirdly, the front cover is an exact copy of an older book’s cover, which is reproduced inside the book. It seems just like the text was erased, and new texts inserted. It seems strange, for a book that is so well-researched, not to deserve it’s own front cover.
Anyway, don’t let that stop you! The book is available here: http://www.franceslincoln.co.uk/en/C/0/Book/3159/Fern_Fever.html