Over the course of just a few days in 17th-century Amsterdam, tulip prices skyrocketed. It was the Dutch golden age, and a public spurred by the spring perennials’ fashionable reputation drove contract prices for their bulbs sky-high: for instance, a single bulb of the Viceroy tulip was traded for four oxen. A year later this bubble—widely considered to be the first speculative bubble in world history—burst, a rise and fall captured (if with some doubt as to the details) by Charles Mackay in his 1841 book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.
Flower-mania has never again reached those levels, but our infatuation with pretty, sweet-smelling blossoms endures. A new book offers a history of floral motifs through the ages, from ancient Egyptian wall paintings to the Japanese art of ikebana, and onward to arrangements in modern-day New York City. Among the 300 images in the volume are works of art, illustration, sculpture, textile, and glass by an eclectic group that includes Ansel Adams, Cecil Beaton, Albrecht Dürer, Ellsworth Kelly, Yayoi Kusama, Alexander McQueen, Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Andy Warhol. The best part about it? No wilting. —Julia Vitale