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216 × 138 × 21 mm
264 pages
100 illustrations, 95 in colour
11 Nov 2019

Mulberry Peter Coles

Since Antiquity few trees have had a greater impact on the world’s culture and economy than the mulberry. The sole food of the silkworm, the leaves of the mulberry brought prosperity not only to ancient China, but to all nations that learned the art of silk production. Mulberry bark was used to make the first paper and the succulent, blood-red fruit of the Black Mulberry has inspired poets from Ovid to Shakespeare. The medicinal properties of all parts of the tree have been known for millennia, making it a tree of choice for medieval monastery gardens, while its anti-diabetic effects are opening exciting avenues of research today.

This sumptuously illustrated book tells the remarkable story of the mulberry tree and its migrations from China and Central Asia to almost every continent of the globe. It will appeal to all who wish to know more of the rich history of this emblematic tree.

‘In Mulberry by Peter Coles, we have a splendid account of one of the world's most celebrated trees, one that shows the events, people, historical twists and turns, and biological peculiarities that moulded today's species . . . All this, and gorgeous mulberry-inspired art, is stitched together with elegant prose, quirky observations and a love of history's strangeness.’ — New Scientist

‘few plants have been as influential on human life as this modest tree . . . Author Peter Coles is a consummate researcher and engaging writer in this addition to the series from Reaktion Books’ — The English Garden

‘Coles pursues the mulberry through legend, art and literature, from ancient Chinese myths to Instagram, before a fascinating final chapter explores the many uses of the "Tree of Plenty" . . . a comprehensively researched and wide-ranging introduction to the subject.’ — Gardens Illustrated

‘[Coming] from a unique and considerable amount of both primary and secondary research . . . [Mulberry] is an incredibly comprehensive monograph or study. . . This is a book which succeeds on every level, being accessible and also sophisticated.’ — Dr Stephen J. Bowe, author of 'Mulberry: The Material Culture of Mulberry Trees'

‘A beguiling book full of fascinating and wide-ranging information about this globe-trotting family of trees. This well-researched and aptly illustrated book honours the mulberry tree's many roles in human history — beyond that of providing fodder for the voracious silkworm —from medicine, music to myth. A most enjoyable and informative read.’ — Susan Whitfield, historian and author of 'Silk, Slaves and Stupas' (2018)

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Peter Coles is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, University of London and is a freelance science writer, fine art photographer and translator.


one Black, White and Red
two Mulberries and Silk
three Lost Angels
four Mulberry Mania
five Art, Legend and Literature 147
six Tree of Plenty

Further Reading
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements