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250 × 190 × 28 mm
352 pages
200 illustrations, 140 in colour
16 Jul 2018

Where Corals Lie A Natural and Cultural History J. Malcolm Shick

For millennia corals were a marine enigma confounding classification and occupying a space between the animal and vegetable kingdoms. Ultimately their animal and symbiotic natures were recognized, and they remain the focus of intense fascination and research. The danger to seafarers posed by unseen underwater coral reefs led to their association with death and interment that has figured in literature, poetry, music and film. The bright redness of precious Mediterranean coral was associated with blood, including coral's gory origin in European and Indian mythology, and its place in religion. Corals have long been prized as jewellery and ornament, and were a feature of many Kunstkammer collections during the Renaissance. Seen as ‘rainforests of the sea’, coral reefs have become greenly emblematic of fragile marine biodiversity, warning of human-driven global climate change.

This book uniquely treats the many manifestations of corals in biology and geology; how diverse corals came to figure in art, expeditionary accounts, medicine, folklore, geopolitics, and international trade; and corals as builders of islands and protectors of coastlines, and as building materials themselves. Exceptionally illustrated with a wide range of natural history images, underwater photographs and fine art, this book provides a unique resource for all interested in ocean environments and the cultures that have flourished there.

Outstanding Academic Title Award 2019’ — Choice

‘Shick's compendium of coral lore is both an encyclopedic work of scholarship and an accessible reference for general readers. True to its title, it shows where corals lie, not only in the web of life and the geology of our planet, but also in commerce, politics, literature, and art . . . High-quality reproductions of decorative and illustrative art on almost every page evoke the visual fascination of the coral multiverse with expressive color and clarity.’ — Natural History Magazine

‘This book is a tour de force of assiduous scholarship, unique in its approach, enthralling in its coverage, and stimulating to the imagination. Too many recently published historico-biological books employ an overwhelming mass of coloured illustrations as makeweight – here, however, the beautiful illustrations are absolutely necessary, and are both informative and a delight to behold . . . The whole production is very reasonably, indeed cheaply, priced and is a most desirable addition to the library of any historically and artistically-minded naturalist.’ — Archives of Natural History

‘This is a truly delightful, lavishly illustrated and unusual book, that most seasoned members will be eager to possess and many younger researchers keen to read. For many it will make the perfect Christmas gift!’ — Reef Encounter

‘The publisher, Reaktion Books, is well-known for its many interdisciplinary surveys that deal with the cultural history of animals, plants, objects and seemingly unimportant things. Without doubt, the present work is a finely-made and well-balanced representative of its class . . . it is a very encouraging monograph: It provides fresh suggestions and opens many doors to different subjects and areas of interest . . . This is a book that historians working in the field of maritime history may enjoy reading on account of its clear composition and density of information.’ — Journal of Asian History

‘Spectacularly illustrated, beautifully written and compellingly original, Where Corals Lie takes us from bizarre notions of antiquity to today’s environmental crises in a triumphant amalgam art and science.’ — Charlie Veron

‘Coral bleaching is sadly joining the melting ice caps as one of the fastest and most significant consequences of global warming. However gloomy scientific evidence is not enough to inspire care and drive change. Where Corals Lie stands out by giving cultural and spiritual significance to this environmental disaster. Malcolm Shick masterfully brings forward the symbolical and intellectual value of corals and leads us to the crucial question: are we really willing to lose such a treasure?’ — Robert Calcagno, CEO of the Oceanographic Institute – Prince Albert 1st of Monaco Foundation

‘As a biologist familiar with corals, I found this book’s concept extremely appealing and intriguing. Its all-embracing scope combined with the author’s wonderful curiosity and diligent scholarship have together have resulted in a remarkable collection of accounts and stories, all richly illustrated. I know of no other book like it.’ — Vicki Buchsbaum Pearse, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz

Where Corals Lie takes the reader on a widely ranging and richly illustrated tour of corals, not just their biology and currently threatened state, but also how their history interweaves with ours. It is beautifully written and deeply informed on an astonishing range of topics –a book where science shares the table with figures as diverse as Ovid and Obama.’ — Nancy Knowlton, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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J. Malcolm Shick is Professor Emeritus of Zoology and Oceanography at the University of Maine, where he conducted research and taught for forty years. Some of his early scientific works were synthesized with the wider literature in his first book, A Functional Biology of Sea Anemones (1981).