The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

Richard Holmes

Introduced by Jenny Uglow

Richard Holmes presents an entertaining study of the extraordinary figures that changed the face of science.

Published price: US$ 79.95


The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

This edition features many illuminating newly researched images: diagrams of galvanism show the effects of electricity on a severed ox’s head, and ‘Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion’ poignantly illustrates the bravery of the lone traveller. In her introduction, the acclaimed writer Jenny Uglow shares her enthusiasm for a book that encourages us to ‘make our own imaginative flights’.

Production Details

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science book
  • Bound in cloth, blocked with a typographic design by Marcus Leis Allion
  • Set in Iowan Old Style with Bulmer display
  • 608 pages
  • Frontispiece and 32 pages of colour and black & white plates, and integrated mono images
  • 10" x 6¾"

Poetry and science unified

'Groundbreaking … a buoyant new fusion of history, art, science, philosophy and biography'

In 1771 Joseph Banks returned from the South Pacific a changed man; having accompanied Captain Cook on his three-year voyage on board the Endeavour, he was exhausted and unwell, yet filled with ‘scientific wanderlust’. Made president of the Royal Society at the age of 35, Banks would go on to nurture several protégées, directing the ‘adventurous character of romantic science’. In his exuberant history of a time when art and science stood arm in arm, Richard Holmes places Banks at the beginning of a movement in which wonder would come to be both the instigator of science, and its ultimate reward.

The Age of Wonder reveals the fascinating cast of the era: William Herschel, whose explorations of the stars led to the discovery of Uranus, and the chemist Humphry Davy, who frequently endangered his own life in his experiments. Their devotion to discovery inspired a generation of romantic poets, including Coleridge, who would attend Davy’s lectures and write essays on his work. As well as these key figures, Holmes demonstrates the breadth of scientific and artistic endeavour: from the ballooning craze that consumed Europe in 1783, to Mary Shelly’s nightmarish Frankenstein, he sweeps the reader along in an infectious race for greater understanding.

‘Dazzling and approachable’

About the author

Richard Holmes is an award-winning British author best known for his biographical studies of major figures of British and French Romanticism. His books include the classic Footsteps (1985) and its companion volume Sidetracks (2000), Shelley: The Pursuit, which won the Somerset Maugham Prize in 1974, Coleridge: Early Visions, which won the 1989 Whitbread Biography of the Year, Coleridge: Darker Reflections, winner of both the Duff Cooper Prize and the Heinemann Award in 1998, and, most recently, Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air (2013). The Age of Wonder was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Royal Society Prize for Science Books (UK) and the National Book Critics Circle Award (USA).

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the British Academy, and an Honorary Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. He was awarded the OBE in 1992, and in 2014 the Biographers’ Club Lifetime Services to Biography Prize.

About the introducer

Jenny Uglow is a prize-winning historical biographer, editor and critic, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her books include The Lunar Men (2002), Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick (2006), A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration (2009) and In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793–1815 (2014). She is also editor of the Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Women (4th edition, 2005) and author of acclaimed biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell and William Hogarth and short studies of George Eliot and Henry Fielding.


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Review by Ambat on 7th Aug 2016

Text: Illustrations: Binding: Rating: 5/5

"A truly wonderful book, which brought the Romantic Generation vividly to life for me. Beautiful binding design and a wide and excellent choice of illustrations. 10 out of 10 Folio."

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