MacFarlane, Robert “The Old Ways” (Viking 2012)

In the Museum of the Botanical Gardens of Lisbon, there is a wooden chest of fifty-six drawers presented in 1560 to King Pedro V of Portugal by Vasco de Gama. Each of the drawers of the chest was made of a different species of tropical hardwood, and each of these fifty-six species was at the time to be found growing somewhere in the colonies of Portugal. Though the chest’s form is analogous to the library, its purpose is drastically different. Da Gama’s chest treats trees as colonial subjects whose acquisition and arrangement was a means of demonstrating dominion–proof of plural worlds under a singular control (239-240).


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