Out on 09 July 2020

Palace of Palms

Kate Teltscher

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09 July 2020
420 minutes

‘Teltscher is a remarkable new historian . . . wholly original.’ William Dalrymple

Daringly innovative when it opened in 1848, the Palm House in Kew Gardens remains one of the most beautiful glass buildings in the world today.

Seemingly weightless, vast and yet light, the Palm House floats free from architectural convention, at once monumental and ethereal. From a distance, the crowns of the palms within are silhouetted in the central dome; close to, banana leaves thrust themselves against the glass. To enter it is to enter a tropical fantasy. The body is assaulted by heat, light, and the smell of damp vegetation.

In Palace of Palms, Kate Teltscher tells the extraordinary story of its creation and of the Victorians’ obsession with the palms that filled it. It is a story of breathtaking ambition, of scientific discovery and, crucially, of the remarkable men whose vision it was. The Palm House was commissioned by the charismatic first Director of Kew, Sir William Hooker, designed by the audacious Irish engineer, Richard Turner, and managed by Kew’s forthright curator, John Smith, who battled with boilers and floods to ensure the survival of the rare and wondrous plants it housed.

An impeccably well-researched book, and it is hard to imagine this fascinating story being told with greater sensitivity or skill.

Noel Malcolm on The High Road to China - Sunday Telegraph

Teltscher is a remarkable new historian . . . wholly original

William Dalrymple on The High Road to China

A splendid and fascinating account . . . Teltscher has made remarkable use of her source material, aided by the constantly perceptive and witty tone of Bogle’s own writings.

Patrick French on The High Road to China - Sunday Times