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216 × 138 mm
224 pages
106 illustrations, 78 in colour
23 Jul 2013

Lily Marcia Reiss

The lily is a flower of contradictions: it represents both life and death, appearing at weddings as well as funerals. In their pure white form, lilies are a symbol of innocence, chastity and purity of heart, but the highly fragrant and intensely coloured lilies symbolize passion. In Lily, Marcia Reiss explores these paradoxes, tracing the flower’s cultural significance in art, literature, religion and popular culture throughout history. 

From the tomb carvings of ancient Egypt to the paintings of Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe and Salvador Dalí, the lily has been an object of fascination and obsession around the world. An exotic luxury in Western horticulture, for centuries lilies have also been a source of food and medicine in China. Whether true lilies, or the wide variety of flowers popularly known as lilies – including daylilies, lilies of the valley, water lilies and calla lilies – these flowers have featured in some of the greatest gardens in the world, from the earthly paradises of Islam to the ordered perfection of Versailles and the naturalistic fantasies of vast English estates.

Filled with striking illustrations of these gorgeous plants, Lily will delight gardeners and lily admirers alike.

‘all the volumes [in the Botanical series] combine scholarship with lively anecdote and are beautifully and generously illustrated . . . there are fascinating accounts of the lily in Native American myth, culture and cookery and of the annual Giglio festival, imported from Italy to New York, in which enormously tall towers decorated with lilies are paraded through the streets. Reiss is also good on the various uses of the word ‘lily’, most notoriously in the racist Lily-White Movement, which held sway in the Republican Party from the end of the American Civil War until 1933 . . . the illustrations in this volume are particularly fine’ – The Spectator

Lily and Pine are beautifully produced, with an old-fashioned and wonderfully solid feel to them; they are well illustrated with material from a very wide range of sources, and bound at a higher quality than the general run of hardback books, especially given the modest price. I can see them becoming collectors’ items.’ – Gardens Illustrated

‘The illustrations throughout the book are as disparate as the people and places it recalls. The many photographs, paintings, botanical artworks and engravings combine to tell their own intriguing story but it is Marcia Reiss’s lively and page-turning text that pulls everything together, making of her many chosen lilies a fine literary bouquet, lacking only the mind-blowing perfume that so many of them propel.’ – Hortus

Lily is a masterful book of 223 pages containing 106 illustrations to help tell the many lily related tales presented by the author. I am pleased to have added this book to my library’ – North American Lily Society Quarterly Bulletin

‘Marcia Reiss takes us on a number of interesting excursions into the life and times of the lily . . . The great strength of Lily is in the chapters covering the lily’s many symbolic meanings across cultures and over time . . . [books in this series] are richly illustrated, contributing greatly to their attractiveness . . . they give us a window onto the rich worldwide stories of remarkable plants.’ – Australian Garden History

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Marcia Reiss is the author of many books on New York history and architecture. She has worked as a journalist, university professor, public official and advocate, and is an avid gardener.