A Thing in Disguise: The Visionary Life of Joseph Paxton

4.14 avg rating
( 21 ratings by GoodReads )
9780007143535: A Thing in Disguise: The Visionary Life of Joseph Paxton

A brilliantly conceived biography of Joseph Paxton, horticulturist to the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire, architect of the Crystal Palace at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and one of the greatest unsung heroes of the Victorian Age.

In the nineteenth century, which witnessed a revolution in horticulture and urban planning and architecture, Joseph Paxton, a man with no formal education, strode like a colossus. Head gardener at Chatsworth by the age of twenty-three, and encouraged by the sixth Duke of Devonshire whose patronage soon flourished into the defining friendship of his life, Paxton set about transforming this Derbyshire estate into the greatest garden in England. Visitors there were astonished by the enormous glasshouses and ambitious waterworks he built, the collection of orchids, the largest in all England, the dwarf bananas and the gargantuan lily, the trees and plants brought back from all over the world. Queen Victoria came to marvel and, increasingly, with the development of the railway in which Paxton was also involved, daytrippers from all over the country.

It was the Crystal Palace, home of the Great Exhibition in 1851, that secured Paxton's fame. His design, initially doodled on a piece of blotting paper, was the architectural triumph of its time. Two thousand men worked for eight months to complete it. It was six times the size of St Paul's Cathedral, enclosed a space of 18 acres, and entertained six million visitors. By the time of his death fourteen years later, 'the busiest man in England' according to Dickens, was friends with Brunel and Stephenson and in constant demand to design public parks and gardens. His last, seemingly most eccentric project was for a Great Boulevard under glass, a crystal arcade that would connect all the main railway termini in London.

Drawing on exclusive access to Paxton's personal letters, Kate Colquhouns's remarkable biography is a compelling story of a man who typifies the Victorian ideal of self-improvement and a touching portrait of one of that era's great heroes.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.


‘A superb biography … Colquhoun's elegantly illustrated, admirably succinct biography is written with true Paxtonian verve. Praise comes no higher.' John Carey, Sunday Times

'Colquhoun's picture is affectionate, thorough and compulsively readable.' Observer

'This is the book everyone will be giving for Christmas. Kate Colquhoun should have a bestseller on her hands.' Cressida Connolly, Saturday Telegraph

'Kate Colquhoun has written an exemplary life of this important and attractive personality. Hopefully this is the first of many.' Aileen Reid, Sunday Telegraph

From the Publisher:

Head Gardener at Chatsworth, designer of the famous Crystal Palace, Joseph Paxton was, according to Dickens, 'the busiest man in all England'. Yet his remarkable life story has never been told, until now. Kate Colquhoun's compelling biography reveals how, against all odds, one man rose to become the most influential horticulturalist and innovative architect of his era.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace


Colquhoun, Kate
Published by Fourth Estate Ltd (2003)
ISBN 10: 0007143532 ISBN 13: 9780007143535
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)

Book Description Fourth Estate Ltd, 2003. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110007143532

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 2.45
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds