Notes on the Botany of the Bible FRONT COVERNotes on the Botany of the Bible
Looking through friends' bookshelves in South-West France in February this year I came across a frail, yellowing exercise book in which was written a comprehensive, knowledgeable and highly-readable A-Z of plants, shrubs and trees of the Bible with biblical references. With it was a packet of line drawings of these species on the back of old blank postcards. The author had declined to put his or her name to the work.
I have not seen a concordance like this but have worked diligently through the Bible in the past for apocalyptic and millenarian projects. Flicking around the Internet I discovered there are sites devoted to plants of the Bible and the related phenomenon of Bible gardens. Not surprisingly these are from either a religious or horticultural (or both) point of view. A handful of books on both subjects has been published in recent years, though not one in facsimile, or part-facsimile as Notes on the Botany of the Bible. Academic research into the translation of biblical manuscripts along with field work particularly in Israel is ongoing.

My interest in the exercise book is in the geography of the region, since it is clear the flora and fauna mentioned in the Bible (and I believe Quran) was more abundant two thousand years ago. Through the Old and New Testament eras (6th Century BCE - 2nd Century CE) throughout the Middle East and particularly in the Holy Land, man was not interested in the problems he was creating with the denudation of forests and soil depletion. Such problems go back to the early Neolithic (from about 10,200 BCE.)
The main difficulty in understanding which plant species are being referred to in Bible verses is the unscientific description of the botany followed by inaccurate translation. Looking at work done on the subject of identification since the 1950s I am impressed with how the exercise book manuscript stands its ground even if it is a curious mix of sophisticated comment and simple spelling mistakes. My hosts in France were delighted with the prospect of me turning it into a facsimile publication with expanded biblical references and updated taxonomy and botanical nomenclature.
My first task was the photography of the manuscript. Without a high-resolution scanner, I used a Nikkor 60 mm macro lens and my 37 megabyte D810 camera. I thought of ordering more flash equipment but decided the softer look of the pages shot under natural light would complement the manuscript. I then found a source of illustrations to supplement the 35 original drawings. This is J. H. Balfour's 1885 book All the Plants of the Bible. It is out of copyright and perfect for this revamping of the manuscript. By the end of February I had researched some of the book and settled on a layout. It is now the first book in my (as publisher) Reference series at 254 mm high x 203 mm wide (10 x 8 inches).