Book Shorts

A book of wallpaper art for students

The botanical illustrations of Alexander von Humboldt in poster form

Engraving by P.J.F. Turpin after Alexander von Humboldt, Hibiscus Lambertianus (1822) Courtesy of Prestel Verlag

Prestel Publishers have been making a major investment in Alexander von Humboldt on the 250th anniversary of his birth. No fewer than three Humboldt books have come off their presses: the whopping doorstopper and text-lite The Complete Drawings from the American Travel Diaries (£160, $195) and a re-issue of Hans Walter Lack’s 2009 Alexander von Humboldt and the Botanical Exploration of the Americas.

If you have kids about to go to university, this publication “by” Professor Doktor Otfried Baume may well be the going-away gift book for them. Baume has written but four paragraphs on the inside cover, and the rest of the book consists of 22 pull-out posters of Humboldt’s exquisite botanical illustrations (above, a copperplate engraving by P.J.F. Turpin, Hibiscus Lambertianus, 1822). These might well work as more respectable counterparts to Ché or Keep Calm And posters and will at the same time prove the complete idiocy of parents to your child’s peers. It might also encourage them to know that a doctorate and a chair needn’t involve much work.

  • Otfried Baume, Alexander von Humboldt Botanical Illustrations, Prestel, 24pp, £19.99, $29.95 (pb)