The name Alexander von Humboldt might not immediately mean much to you. In fact, say “Humboldt” to us and we’re torn between thinking about an old Saul Bellow novel we’ve never got round to reading, and a bag of black and white striped boiled sweets. If you sit it Jordi Anton – founder of Barcelona’s Kronecker Wallis, an independent publishing imprint with a passion for all things scientific – down and say, “So…Alexander von Humboldt…what’s the deal,” you might get something like this in response.
“Humboldt was one of the greatest minds in the world. His line of thought influenced science and politics; inspiring Darwin, Thoreau, Simón Bolivar, Goethe… he was a major influencer and opened lots of eyes on lots of new theories – that’s the reason a lot of places – universities, streets etc… are named Humboldt around the world.”
Alexander, it turns out, was a geographer, a naturalist, an explorer, and the man responsible for the latest book that Jordi and his team at Kronecker Wallis have decided to honour with a lavish reissue. Illustrating Nature is a tribute to the man who, in Jordi’s words, “invented nature as we now understand it,” which is as “an intricate web of relations.”
On numerous expeditions he explored much of the western and eastern world. Not only did he gather important findings of the flora and fauna, he made a significant contribution to the surveying and mapping of the planet.
A gorgeous assortment of illustrations, maps and sketches, the book is now available to fund via Kickstarter. When It’s Nice That asks Jordi if creating beautiful objects for the sake of it an OK thing to do in a world that’s so radically different to the one that Alexander von Humboldt surveyed before his peaceful death in 1859, he’s insistent that, yep, it is.
“Of course! We LOVE printed books and we are trying to keep great texts alive, via the great lever of editorial design – making printed books wonderful objects to own. This is not the easiest and cheapest way for us, but we continue to create beautiful books because that’s what we are excited about doing!”
Like their last book — a reissue of Euclid’s Elements which we covered back in 2017 — Illustrating Nature has been designed by Laia Guarro, and it’s got “Ooooh, that’s a really good idea for a Christmas present for your borther who spends maybe a bit too much time stomping around Sydenham Hill Wood in search of an elusive goldfinch,” all over it.