Things Verbal and Things Herbal: Leah Knight’s Reading Green in Early Modern England receives the 2014 BSLS Book Prize

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

Reading GreenCongratulations to Leah Knight, whose book Reading Green in Early Modern England has been announced as the winner of the 2014 British Society for Literature and Science book prize.

Ranging across contexts from early modern optics and olfaction to horticulture and herbal health care, Knight’s study explores a host of human encounters with the green world: both the impressions we make upon it and those it leaves with us. Reading Green explores the physical and figurative potentials of ‘green’ as they were understood in Renaissance England, including some that foreshadow our paradoxical dependence on and sacrifice of the green world.

The BSLS prize panel was highly impressed by the style, method, adventure and innovation of the study. Knight, whose first monograph (Of Books and Botany in Early Modern England) won the prize in 2009, said:

I am of course delighted that Reading Green won the BSLS book prize. The support of my colleagues working at the nexus of literature and science means a great deal.

As to my motivation for Reading GreenAfter Of Books and Botany in Early Modern England, I had the nagging feeling of unfinished business in my exploration of the interrelations of plants and books. New angles and new evidence for their historical interplay just kept cropping up, even when I wasn’t looking.

Then again, some of my motivation in returning to the topic might be owing to my unsettled sense about the relations between the intellectual to the natural world. There’s something utopian about the paired settings of the library and the garden, but the predatory dependence of books on plants seems to stand for an insidious conflict. The chapters in Reading Green let me work through some of these complexities as they played out in early modern England, a time and place when the material and mental cultures of things verbal and things herbal were in tremendous flux. 

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