Written in trees
The medieval horticultural manual the Godfridus super Palladium directs its readers in the art of grafting and maintaining trees. The text was translated from Latin into Middle English in the fourteenth century by Nicholas Bollard, whose own treatise on planting and grafting is found alongside the super Palladium in a number of surviving manuscripts. These works seek, at least in part, to codify past practices and accumulated knowledge, rendering a future that is predictable and productive. Yet both the super Palladium and Bollard’s Craft of Grafting and Planting are replete with micronarratives of nonhuman matter that connect them to a range of natural philosophical and literary traditions. Many of these directives are also scalable: initially specific to trees and plants, they also resonate with contemporary and modern philosophical debates on temporality, the potential transformations of matter, and the thresholds and limits of life.
With thanks to Vin Nardizzi and Rob Barrett for their invitation to contribute to this special issue and to Chris Law for his useful comments on critical plant studies.
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