Fern Fever
The Story of Pteridomania
By Sarah Whittingham

Hardback, 256 pages
ISBN: 9780711230705
c.185 illustrations in colour and b/w
Published by Frances Lincoln


Fern Fever

The Story of Pteridomania - By Sarah Whittingham


Fern Fever is a significant new book on the Victorian enthusiasm for Ferns and other Pteridophytes. Sarah Whittingham is already known as a writer and authority on 'Pteridomania' and consulted the BPS archive as part of her research for this book. She is a BPS member and recipient of a BPS Centenary Fund award. We believe that the book and its attendant publicity will make a large contribution to increasing awareness of Pteridology and the BPS. Booksales are selling it at £20 instead of £35 to BPS members. Sarah will be at the 2012 BPS AGM to sign copies of the book.

The book launch was held in the Library, the Linnean Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly on 3 February. Yvonne Golding, General Secretary of the BPS, attended together with other Society members.

A full review will appear in the next issue of the Pteridologist, but in the meantime its editor, Alec Greening, has written this short appreciation. The book has already received numerous enthusiastic reviews, some of which are listed below.


Review in House and Garden magazine (April 2012 issue). No digital version available.

'Sarah Whittingham is a tremendous writer; she manages to convey the fervour of the fern madness that gripped the Victorians, not just here in England but around the world, and simultaneously imparts history, botany, human eccentricity and passion in grippingly readable form. The book is very nicely produced, and the illustrations, paintings and examples of Victorian graphics and accessories are fascinating in themselves.'

Full page review in The World of Interiors (April 2012). No digital version available

‘The surprise for modern readers of Sarah Whittingham’s excellent survey lies both in the extent of the British craze ... and the lengths to which it drove its adherents.’

Article in the Daily Mail, 'Fern-mania: After the Victorians said they cured madness and boosted your love life - and explorers risked death to find them, the humble fern is sexy all over again' By Alice-azania Jarvis. (8 March 2012).

Review in The Lady (17 February 2012). No digital version available.

'Victorians would give their eyeteeth for [this book]; the 21st-century plant enthusiast can just turn the pages in wonder.'

Review in the Oxford Times (16 February 2012).

Interview on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour (13 February 2012). Audio Link.

Article in the Scotsman Saturday magazine (11 February 2012).

Review in Cumbria Life, (February 2012). No digital version available.

‘In this authoritative hardback, illustrated with superb paintings, drawings and photographs, Sarah Whittingham ... examines this passion for ferns in absorbing detail.’

Full-page review in The English Garden magazine (February 2012 issue). No digital version available.

  ‘This highly illustrated offering provides readers with the finest and most vivid account of the fern craze, covering a gamut of themes including botany, natural and social history, the decorative arts, literature and fine art. Why – and indeed how - ferns became popular is a fascinating topic for anyone with even the slightest interest in social history.’
‘You don’t have to love ferns to enjoy this book, but I guarantee you’ll see them in a whole new light after reading it.’

Full-page review in Gardens Illustrated magazine (February 2012 issue). No digital version available.

‘Twenty-first century gardeners interested in the Victorian fascination for collections of particular kinds of plants should look no further for insight than Sarah Whittingham’s new book.'
 ‘Whittingham’s examination of the wider fascination for ferns reveals a fresh insight into the period’s social history ...’
 ‘The beautifully illustrated chapter on “Ferns for All” is a treasure trove of high Victorian domestic imagery.’
 ‘There is much to learn from this book, not only about ferns but about a period in history that continues to influence a nation’s culture to this day. It is written with great clarity [and] is beautifully illustrated.’

Article in Saturday Telegraph, ‘Stunning new fernery in the heart of London’ by Joanna Fortnam (21 January 2012).

Review on The Victorian Era blog  (20 January 2012).

Review on London Historians blog  (20 January 2012).

Review by Alec Greening, Editor of the Pteridologist (January 2012).


Information supplied by: Web Site Editor / Sarah Whittingham

The Author

Dr Sarah Whittingham
is an historian based in the south west of England, who specialises in the social history, architecture, and gardens of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Her work includes writing books and articles, researching and writing building histories, giving lectures, teaching university courses and summer schools, and leading popular architectural walks and tours.

Sarah's book The Victorian Fern Craze was published in 2009. In February 2012 Frances Lincoln published Fern Fever: The Story of Pteridomania.

As well as lecturing on the fern craze, Sarah has appeared on television talking about Pteridomania, and has written articles on it for a number of publications, including the Victorian Society's Journal, the National Trust magazine, Country Life, The English Garden and Heritage.

Go to Sarah's Web Site>

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This page was last updated on 19/3/12