Every once in a while there is a book published that you just know you have to have possession of. When I learned of Joan Morgan’s The Book of Pears, I just had to get a hold of a copy. I love pears. In a more civilized age the pear was known as the queen of fruits. Because the virtuous pear does not lend herself to the industrial age, she has fallen out of favor with farmers and consumers alike. A scholarly book on the history and virtues of this timeless fruit was something that lit a spark in me and filled my heart with anticipation. I remember the day that the package arrived. I remember opening the envelope and sliding it out into my hands, flipping through the pages and seeing the breathtaking watercolor plates. This book would be a treasured possession, that I knew right away.
Joan Morgan is a well-known pomologist and fruit historian, you may have seen her other book titled The Book of Apples. Morgan’s historiography of the pear is thorough and complete. The pear’s fascinating story of development and cultivation is traced from 1000 BC to present. Morgan herself has traveled the world researching the pear’s history firsthand, giving readers many of the gleanings and tidbits she uncovered. To those who love horticulture and husbandry, this history reads like a riveting novel. Morgan’s concise style of writing truly shines in her telling the pear’s story throughout history and its relationship with mankind. The book also contains a directory of pears, both modern and ancient. In all, the book covers over 500 varieties of pear. This book is the definitive reference for pears.
One cannot review this book without mentioning the breathtaking watercolor plates done by the world renowned artist Elisabeth Dowle. In my opinion, the book would be worth buying just for these 40 plates. They are simply beautiful. These paintings and the other artwork in this book are the icing on a gourmet cake. This is book that is equally at home on the coffee table as it is on the reference shelf.
If you love pears, love horticultural history, love gorgeous artwork, or just have a lust for learning something new, this book belongs on your bookshelf. I cannot sing its praises loud enough. This one is destined to become a horticultural classic!