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Palace of Palms


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The Palm House at Kew has been one of Britain's most popular attractions since it opened in 1848 - this is the story of its creation and the men whose vision it was

About the Author

Kate Teltscher is a Reader in English Literature at the University of Roehampton and Visiting Researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. As a cultural historian, her research has focused on colonial contact between Britain and Asia and she is the author of two acclaimed books, India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India, 1600-1800 and The High Road to China: George Bogle, the Panchen Lama and the First British Expedition to Tibet, which was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography. She lives in south-west London with her family.


The most enthralling historical book I've read this year. -- Claire Tomalin * New Statesman 'Books of the year' *
Teltscher skilfully brings to life the human story behind the growth of Kew and the creation of its extraordinary centrepiece. What's more remarkable, however, is her command of the details of the new technology that went into the construction of the Palm House . . . she makes such matters unexpectedly fascinating. * Literary Review *
A fascinating and rip-roaring account of the building of one of the great - and experimental - glass buildings of the Victorian age. * Daily Telegraph *
A glorious green adventure story. -- Ann Treneman * The Times *
Stories of botanical exploration are combined with biographies of the characters behind the famous building, transporting the reader to 19th-century London and the countries that supplied the palms for the glasshouse. One can only marvel at the scale of the achievement and feel humbled by how much we owe to the enslaved peoples who enabled countless plants to be brought to our shores from the colonies. -- Rachel de Thame * Sunday Times *
The fascinating story of one of the greatest showpieces of Victorian Britain: the Palm House in Kew Gardens. -- Sam Leith * Spectator *
The story of the creation of the Palm House and the men whose vision it was, are engrossingly told. * Choice Magazine 'Hardback Book of Month' *
I stand corrected by this exhilarating book - but also delighted, astounded and vastly entertained . . . This is gardening history at its best - a sparkling window on the colourful and contradictory Victorian era. -- Ambra Edwards * The Garden *
This beautifully crafted book invokes a world of breathtaking Victorian engineering, glass houses and lush tropical vegetation to tell a tale of exploration, botanical science and the making of new imaginaries. -- Vinita Damodaran, Professor of South Asian History and Director, Centre for World Environmental History, University of Sussex
Lively . . . vividly drawn . . . Wearing her research lightly, Teltscher tells her tale of politicking and financial wrangles, domestic tragedies and epic plant hunting expeditions with a pace and vibrancy more commonly found in novels than in academic study. * Gardens Illustrated *
Kate Teltscher skilfully distils the historical facts of the creation of the Palm House into a piece of storytelling that is difficult to put down. * English Garden *
Truly, this is a work of which all interested in the history of natural history and the history of botany should immediately take note. -- Johannes E. Riutta * The Well-read Naturalist *
The story of its [the Palm House's] creation and the plant collections in it encompass all the qualities that make a great story: personal ambition, disagreements, eccentricity, struggles, fashions, fights and ultimately a building that triumphs. * This England *
Not since Anna Pavord's The Tulip has a book so brilliantly captured the spirit of its subject. Kate Teltscher's Palace of Palms is a glorious headrush into Victorian history via one of the most iconic and beautiful glasshouses in the world. This is a bright, shining jewel of a book, a hedonists' delight and an escapists' antidote to the humdrum. -- Amanda Foreman
In this fascinating book, Kate Teltscher introduces us not just to the Palm House at Kew, but to the world of the palm. In so doing, she roams from botany and horticulture, through plant hunting expeditions and literary traditions, to engineering and architecture. Some of the people met on this journey are the privileged members of society, some technical geniuses, others working men who toiled in gruelling conditions to transport a tropical world to Victorian London. -- Margaret Willes, author of The Gardens of the British Working Class
Teltscher is a remarkable new historian . . . wholly original -- William Dalrymple
This book gives a marvelous glimpse into a lost and luscious Victorian world, peopled not only with plants but with energetic, ambitious - and sometimes frankly bonkers - characters. -- Lucy Worsley
Kate Teltscher's highly readable account breathes life into the key characters and events that shaped the remarkable evolution of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew during the 19th century, and its most iconic building, the Palm House. -- Toby Musgrave
The Palm House is unarguably the iconic building at Kew Gardens, and in my opinion, the most beautiful glasshouse in the world. The Victorians created this glorious temple to house their precious palms and today, 170 years later, it continues to delight and awe millions of visitors every year. This book tells its story. -- Richard Deverell, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Palm House at Kew has been a world attraction since it was opened in 1848 - and Kate Teltscher's brilliantly researched account of the botanists and architects responsible is as thrilling as a novel. -- Claire Tomalin
The establishment of Kew Gardens and the building of the great Palm House is a most remarkable story, that touches on every aspect of 19th century life. Kate Teltscher knows it all - the politics, the science, the engineering - and writes about it with effortless elegance to weave the most wonderfully compelling narrative. -- Michael Frayn

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