Monday, February 2, 2009


in researching the terraria, my readings wandered into historical context. that is where i found the connection between dr. nathaniel ward (inventor and namesake of the wardian case) and an ensuing pteridomania in britain and scotland. so what is pteridomania? it translates from latin roots to 'fern craze' and was one of a few results of dr. ward's glazed cases. having enclosed glass containers kept delicate plants (like ferns and, later, orchids) safe from the toxic mash of london's coal-fuelled air. one has to question how children were kept alive in this environment. presumably they were less novel than collecting ferns. during this mass hysteria, ladies and gentlemen of means took to the hills and meadows to scour then for ferns. they collected new species, grew their own from spores and eventually, for some hearty souls, got into the exciting territory of hybridization.

and how was the term coined? well, it came from this passage out of charles kingsley's 1855 book glaucus (note the other crafts that he claims were eclipsed by chasing the fern):

Your daughters, perhaps, have been seized with the prevailing 'Pteridomania'...and wrangling over unpronounceable names of species (which seem different in each new Fern-book that they buy)...and yet you cannot deny that they find enjoyment in it, and are more active, more cheerful, more self-forgetful over it, than they would have been over novels and gossip, crochet and Berlin-wool.
aside from threatening some natural fern stocks, this mania also bled its way into textile design, ceramics, glass wares, metal work and more. clearly there is much more reading to do. see? this is why i can't read fiction. there is too much weird real stuff to absorb. and i don't read very quickly.

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