This has rarely been demonstrated more beautifully than in the new book An Illustrated Catalog of American Fruits & Nuts: The US Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolour Collection, published by Atelier Éditions.
The hefty tome packs in 384 pages with more than 300 colour illustrations gathered from the USDA's pomological (the branch of botany that studies fruit and its cultivation) watercolour collection of more than 7,5000 images, which were created between 1886 and 1942.
The illustrations are not only visually arresting, but botanically accurate. Created by 21 professional artists – nine of which were women – the illustrations served a purpose before photography was widely used for the purposes of aiding identification of different varieties of produce for growers.
"Documenting the transformation of American pomology, the science of fruit breeding and production, and the horticultural innovations accountable for contemporary fruit cultivation and consumption, the USDA’s collection offers fascinating anthropological and horticultural insights concerning the fruits we ecstatically devour, and why," says the publisher.
Indeed, An Illustrated Catalog of American Fruits & Nuts spans the fields of archaeology, anthropology, horticulture, literature, art, illustration and more.
The book features an introduction by Adam Leith Gollner, author of The Fruit Hunters, and texts by "fruit enthusiasts" including Jacqueline Landey, a writer published in the likes of Al Jazeera and National Geographic Traveller; John McPhee, a staff writer at The New Yorker who has taught writing at Princeton University since 1975; prolific author, longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine, and Harvard University teacher Michael Pollan; and Marina Vitaglione, a photographer, photo editor, and writer based between France and London.
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