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190 × 135 mm
208 pages
103 illustrations, 36 in colour
01 Oct 2003

Tortoise Peter Young

Tortoise is the first cultural history of these long-lived and intriguing creatures, which have existed for more than 200 million years. The book covers tortoises worldwide, in evolution, myth and reality, ranging across palaeontology, natural history, myth, folklore, art forms, literature, veterinary medicine and trade regulations.

The tortoise has been seen as an Atlas-like creature supporting the world, as the origin of music and as a philosophical paradox. Peter Young examines the tortoise in all these guises, as well as a military tactical formation, its exploitation by mariners and others for food, as ornament (in tortoiseshell), as a motif in art, and in space research. He looks at the movement away from exploitation to conservation and even the uses of the tortoise in advertising. As well as examples of species, illustrations from around the world include monuments, sculptures, coins, stamps, objets d’art, drawings, cartoons, advertisements and X-rays.

The book will appeal not only to tortoise lovers but also to readers of cultural histories around the world.

‘Peter Young's Tortoise . . . can be warmly recommended.’ – Jonathan Bate, The Times

‘Peter Young is clearly a tortoise lover, and writes knowledgeably about the growing efforts to conserve these animals, both in and ex situ. But really, his whole book does its bit towards tortoise conservation, by raising the reader’s awareness of the major part which tortoises have always played in human life. And Tortoise is not merely a fascinating and informative read - its a visual delight as well, with illustrations showing the use the artists of three millennia have made of tortoises to produce images as curious, comical or beautiful as the animals themselves’ – International Zoo News

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Peter Young is an independent scholar who lives in Crawley, West Sussex. He is the author of Swan (Reaktion Books, 2007). Timothy Tortoise, to whom this book is dedicated, has been a member of his family for more than 50 years.