Thursday, 21 July 2016

Grandeur of a miniature world

The Public Domain Review newsletter is a gem. Take the latest essay: Richard Spruce and the Trials of Victorian Bryology.

It’s a fascinating tale of Amazonian botanical espionage and the secret sexuality of mosses as indulged in by obsessive Victorians. Apparently, it was associated with illicit passion, enabling romps outside the strictures of a residence.

Who said moss was boring?
 
Spruce was not one for the regular beauties of the jungle. The beauty of the Amazon, to Spruce, lay in the humble, Godly mosses and hepatics that hearkened back to his botanical ramblings back in Europe, providing respite from the rainforest’s apparently underwhelming — albeit dangerous — daily existence.

Pictured is Plate 72 of the fabulous Kunstformen der Natur (1904), depicting a grove of mosses (referred to by Haeckel as “Muscinae”, a label now obsolete).

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