The book explores the early sixteenth century writings of Jacob Boehme and the medieval connection between religion and all of nature. Writers and philosophers looked at items of the natural world as though the hand of God touched them all. They strove to discover this connected "signature" in all things. Seventeenth century naturalists, like Newton, began to focus more on observation of facts. Philosophers, naturalists were still often theologians by scholarship and nature. But by the early to mid 1800s, the world of information exploded to the point where one person, through study, could no longer learn it all. Individuals began to specialize in areas such as botany, geology, etc. Writers such as Goethe began to be interested in this new area of science. And forward thinkers, such as Darwin began to make connections and observations ushering in the brave new world of science.
In her book, Gilbert follows the life and career of a Alma Whittaker, a woman caught up in the center of the botany world, and her relationship to an eccentric Ambrose Pike, extraordinary botanical artist of orchids. Taking place in settings around the world, this book is substantial and thought provoking. It is a sweet read.
Ah, Nature and art...could there be a sweeter combination?