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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

Mulberry is another welcome newcomer for the Botanical series . . . These, and other aspects – utilitarian, gastronomic, artistic, horticultural – are all fascinatingly pondered within the book's beautifully-illustrated and well-indexed pages.’ — Hortus

‘Mulberries, in the minds of so many, are the trees that feed silkworms, but Peter Coles expands that concept beyond measure. From palaeobotany to medicines to computer games Coles leads his readers through the breadth of the mulberry’s cultural history . . . The joy of the book is the lightness of touch in the prose deployed by Coles, writing in everyday speech rhythms that retain the interest of his readers and maintain momentum . . . How deftly and succinctly Coles leads readers through ancient cultures and their territories and through centuries of legislation governing the growing and spreading of the mulberry. He succeeds in making legislation interesting . . . the publishers have converted his material into a handsome volume commensurate with the quality within.’ — Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland News

‘This is a beautifully made book. It features real sewn signatures and color photographs, some of which are two-page spreads of particularly interesting mulberry trees around England. The work would best be characterized as a natural history of the mulberry tree, of which there are three basic species, red, black, and white. Systematic to that extent, the text otherwise does not build on a singular line of reasoning but jumps around to various topics, including aspects of the historical silk trade, botany, and even art. The book is extensively referenced, and includes several pages of resources (print and online) for those who would wish to follow up on some of the topics touched on in the text. It will be valuable for general readers and amateurs who have a propensity for botany. Recommended.’ — Choice

Mulberry is relatively short, abundantly illustrated, and well-written. It’s a story that’s told well, and contains many good yarns. And. since author Coles is co-founder and editor of Morus Londinium – a web site devoted to unravelling London’s mulberry tree heritage – this is a book that’s been written by an obvious enthusiast for its subject.’ — Botany One

‘[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