Festive Seasonal Things

If you must buy gifts, consider books, actual books, including the ones I’ve written about lately. What have you been reading? (Comments are open below…)

Here’s one more:Mark Frith’s graphite drawings of ancient English oaks, a majestic crew of survivors depicted in the winter of their dishabille. UChicago Press is distributing the book in the US, starting in February.

Aljos Farjon’s Ancient Oaks in the English Landscape gives much more detail on the aging and survival for these Quercus robur and Quercus petraea specimens. Most of these ancients date to the medieval period, a few may have a maximum age of 1000 years, but because they’re all hollowed out, you can’t age them by tree rings. Farjon cautions that many said to over a thousands years old probably aren’t.

At any rate, for centuries most of them survived by being in deer parks and royal forests (variations on hunting sanctuaries for the toff, where the prey [venison] was more important than the trees [vert]). Some have been pollarded (in some cases, “commoners” had rights to cutting above the deer’s browse height); they look like stumpy baobabs now, or as an 1827 chronicler snorted, “as curly, surly, knotty an old monster as can be conceived.” They are rich foci for invertebrates, fungi, and lichen; indeed, such ancient woods, particularly the oaks, “collectively support greater biodiversity than any other type of habit in Europe.” In Europe, only the Yew, Taxus baccata, can grow older than these two Quercus species.

And then there’s art:
This stunning print is for sale by my friend George Boorujy. It’s an edition of 200, so hurry up.

Not for sale, although the catalogue is:The Anna Atkins exhibit of cyanotypes of British algae at NYPL. Her three-volume work was the first book to be illustrated with photographs. The exhibit is small but gem-like. It ends 2/17/19. You’ll dream in Prussian Blue afterwards (oddly the tote bag they’re selling is black…?).

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