A Wunderkammer:
Wonders of Nature

Curieuse Nature was published in French in October last year, then translated straight away in Italian by L'Ippocampo. The English edition will be out soon on October 1st , published by Prestel, one of the world's leading publishers in the fields of art, architecture, photography and design.

Opening Wonders of Nature is like entering a natural history museum: it's an oversized, brilliantly crafted book with magnificent illustrations presented in double-page spreads.
The author explores the world of birds, insect and fish highlighting some attributes that make each species unique and beautifully bizarre, and providing a short introduction to each group of images. These are then followed by a summary with names and some curiosities about each animal.

The idea for this book (as the author explains in the Preface) comes in fact from the Cabinets of Curiosities (also called Curio Cabinets, from German Wunderkammer) that were popular during the expansionist era of the 17th and 18th Century: encyclopaedic collections of treasures from faraway places (mainly tropical areas) that Europeans monarchs were exploring, funding missions around the world, and colonising.
There were stuffed animals and bell-jarred oddities, but also beautiful picture boards snd sketchbooks made by scientists and artists.
"Their pictures were made as scientific records, yet they are also seen today as works of art"
These words summarise the importance of non-fiction books in the Montessori pedagogy, where science meets art, and the depiction of reality is enough to stimulate the imagination of adults and children alike.
So although the informative content in the book is essential and enjoyable, the images play a major role here: they are big and super detailed, a feast for the eyes. The illustrations are self-explanatory in a sense, enveloping the reader in the (very Zen) activity of examining details and spotting differences.
This is therefore a great book to build focus, charming and poetic enough to work at bedtime (which is not typically the ideal time of the day for non-fiction books).

Much more than just an exercice de style about the genius of nature, Wonders of Nature is a book about contemplation, stillness and respect for (bio)diversity in the era of fragmentation and distraction, of movement and shortsighted sense of possession towards the natural world.

"When we see a butterfly, we only witness the final stage in that insect's remarkable life. Before becoming a butterfly, the insect must undergo amazing adventures - adventures that require it to be perseverant, patient and act when the time is ripe.
[…] Sadly, it seems that butterflies are becoming more scarce the world over. Nature exists without humans, yet it would seem that the reverse is rather difficult.
[…] Let's forget the 'butterfly chase' and just be happy to observe them'.
Wonders of Nature [October 1st 2018, also available on Amazon Books]
Words & Art by Florence Guiraud
English-language edition published by Prestel Publishing, find here the list of their online and offline partner-bookshops
Italian edition published by L'Ippocampo
Reading age: 5+
Themes: Non-Fiction, Nature, Natural History

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