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210 × 148 mm
254 pages
106 illustrations, 98 in colour
01 Jul 2017

Clouds Nature and Culture Richard Hamblyn

Clouds have been objects of delight and fascination throughout human history; their fleeting magnificence and endless variety have inspired scientists and daydreamers alike. Clouds and the ever-changing patterns they create have long symbolized the restlessness and unpredictability of nature. Life without clouds is not physically possible – alongside their rain-bearing function, clouds act as a finely tuned planetary thermostat – but in addition it would be mentally and spiritually barren, deprived of the inspiring, life-affirming thought-bubbles that drift continuously overhead: ‘the ultimate art gallery above’, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote.

Richard Hamblyn explores the notable presence of clouds in literature and the arts (including music and sculpture) while outlining their growing scientific significance in the context of climate change. The book covers the history, science and art of clouds, including the controversial history of cloud modification. All the major cloud types are discussed and illustrated, including clouds on other planets, as well as the increasing number of man-made clouds that fill our changeable skies. Comprehensive yet compact, cogent and beautifully illustrated, this is the ultimate guide to clouds: from Hamlet’s ‘cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel’ to the world of cloud computing today.

‘Ambiguity about what clouds are – objects, phenomena, systems or processes? – has only helped them to develop a rich life in our imaginations . . . [Clouds] blends nature and culture in a lavishly illustrated account of the physics of clouds that gives equal attention to the “myths and metaphors”, their appearances in art and music, and even “future clouds”.’ – Times Higher Education

‘Part of the Earth Series, the densely packed paperback features 106 wonderful illustrations, ranging from romantic and classical depictions of the sky through to photographs of rare meteorological phenomenon, such as “hole-punch clouds” . . . the book is wide ranging in its approach to thinking about clouds and culture, with an abundance of apt imagery, and based on a vast amount of broad and thorough primary research. Whether reading outright in one sitting, or dipping in as a coffeetable read, all who come to this book, whether  historian, geographer, scientist, enthusiast or accidental reader will find something new, novel and of interest about those seemingly fluffy features, that continue to capture our imagination.’ – Journal of Historical Geography

‘Who hasn’t at some time in their life, lain on the grass and identified images in the clouds above them? Richard Hamblyn’s book covers the whole range of our fascination with clouds in a well-written and beautifully illustrated account of the development of cloud classification, clouds in myth, literature, art and music, and the modern practice of artificial cloud modification . . . This book is an example of how cultural geography can introduce a new depth of understanding into the study of natural phenomena . . . a book that can be read with enjoyment and interest by specialists in the subject and those with interest in, but little knowledge of, meteorology . . . you will see the clouds differently next time you lie on the grass!’ – Geography

‘Hamblyn shares the fruits of his wide-ranging reading and erudition on the subject. The appearances of clouds in mythology, history, science, literature, art, photography, and music are all featured within this work. There are copious illustrations, including many color photographs and art reproductions, an appendix of “Cloud Species and Varieties,” and a timeline of the scientific and artistic works treating clouds that are mentioned in the text. Like many of the volumes in this series, the book is a beautifully produced and presented work. It will be an attractive and enjoyable resource for students and a wide variety of readers.’ – Choice

‘Richard Hamblyn provides a multifaceted narrative on nature’s most versatile creation. Packed with colourful pictures, this book could easily be the most comprehensive and authoritative text on the subject. And, indeed it is . . . a magnificent collection of these stories – from their wooly journey through art, literature, music and photography, to their sinister manipulation for military use and anthropogenic modifications . . . Cogent and colourfully illustrated, this is the ultimate guide to the past, present and future of clouds.’ – Current Science

‘This book, one of many excellent titles in the Earth Series, is a mix of mythology, history, literature, art history and science. It introduces us to cloud seeding, cloud music and the special effects that made clouds movie stars (think The Wizard of Oz and Twister). Now you’ll be able to ‘read’ clouds in an entirely new way.’ – Reader’s Digest, Australia

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Richard Hamblyn is a lecturer in the department of English and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London. An award-winning environmental writer and historian, his previous books include Tsunami: Nature and Culture (2014), The Art of Science (2011), Terra: Tales of the Earth (2009), The Cloud Book (2008) and The Invention of Clouds (2001).