Botanical pictures for the public: On the publication of Carl Lindman’s Bilder ur Nordens flora

Project: Dissertation

Layman's description

Botanical illustrations are admired for their aesthetic qualities, and have therefore sometimes been used to attract new groups to botany. However, the plant images are primarily working material for botanists. This dissertation project studies how botanists use images to communicate knowledge and how the images have been designed to function as scientifically correct research material.

In 1901 botanist Carl Lindman (1856-1928) was commissioned by Wahlström & Widstrand publishing house to write the text for a new edition of the long out-of-print book ‘Svensk botanik (1802-1843)’ by J. W. Palmstruch (1770-1811). The old copper plates were to be transferred onto lithographic stone and it would therefore be possible to duplicate the book in colour at a significantly lower cost and with wider distribution than its hand-coloured predecessor. The work on the illustrations would be undertaken by the illustrator Axel Ekblom (1858-1914). While the work was in progress, Lindman realised that the images also needed to be altered and enhanced.

The book, which had the full title ‘Bilder ur Nordens flora på grundvalen af Palmstruchs Svensk botanik (1901-1905)’, was the first large illustrated Flora printed in colour to be published in Sweden. The Flora became an immediate commercial success and was published in an expanded edition during Lindman’s lifetime. It has since been published in a number of further editions, the latest in 1994.

In Lindman’s view, appropriate images could speak a more concise, precise and clear language than all text. The questions addressed in this project concern how the images were designed to complement and shorten the text desciptions. Further, the project examines the impact on the images of the development of botanical science, pedagogical ideas, image conventions, artistic requirements and economic and printing limitations.
Effective start/end date2008/09/012013/12/31