Book Review

Weanée Kimblewood

Palms 2012,
by Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius.
Pocket diary (12 x 17 cm) with clothbound hardcover.
Taschen, 128 pages,
Price: 13.00 EUR

Mütter Museum 2012,
by Laura Lindgren.
Wall calendar.
Blast Books, NY, 28 pages,
Price: 19.95 EUR

Optikus 2012,
by Johannes Siethoff.
Table calendar with MDF rack.
12 circular sheets, overall height 26 cm,
Price: 18.90 EUR

Leica 2012.
Wall calendar (60 x 42 cm), 12 pages.
Not commericially available
(a promotional gift for Leica customers).

Looking Ahead into 2012

In the last Lab Times of the year, we traditionally present a number of fine calendars that will please any scientist’s heart. This year, feast your eyes on a pocket diary for botanists, an extraordinary anatomical calendar from the US and an extravagant circular calendar that perplexes the eye. And, as always, there is an opportunity to win one of them.

While searching desperately for the appropriate phrase to get started with this year’s calendar review, your uninspired Lab Times editor was visited in his office by a friend.

“Wow, you’ve got a Martius pocket calendar? It’s so stylish! Really cool, this. Actually, it’s much too beautiful to write in... Oh goodness, what a wonderful Christmas gift!”

As far as your editor was concerned, she might as well have been speaking Greek. What Martius calendar? Could she possibly mean this small booklet on the edge of the computer desk, wrapped in brown cloth binding and with an unimposing drawing of a palm on the cover? Why in the world should this small thing be, “much too beautiful to write in”? And who the heck is Martius? Never heard of the guy...

Taschen’s precious pocket diary

Your Lab Times editor’s ignorance didn’t last long. His visitor, a German botanist and expert on tropical lichens, lost no time in enlightening him about this unknown but seemingly important person, “Martius? Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius?? The celebrated German botanist and explorer?! Everyone knows him! He’s the guy who made this famous historical expedition through Brazil, to explore the country’s flora. You must be joking!”

A few minutes later, a previously ignorant journalist had been converted into a sophisticated Carl von Martius expert. The 19th century botanist was sent to South America by the king of Bavaria in 1817, to explore the mostly unknown Amazon and São Francisco river regions over the following four years. After his return to Europe he was appointed conservator of the Munich botanical garden, a position that includes managing the herbarium at the Botanische Staatssammlung München.

Among the many famous works that von Martius published before his death in 1868, probably the best known is Historia Naturalis Palmarum, in which all known genera of the palm family (Arecaceae) are described and finely illustrated with habitat sketches and botanical dissections. The Taschen Palms Small Deluxe Diary 2012 (12 x 17 cm) contains a collection of 52 coloured chromolithographs, each of them sketched by von Martius himself. The diary has a brown cloth-bound hardcover; inside, it features a high-quality colour reproduction on the left and a seven-day-calendar on the right for every week of 2012. The paper is of the highest quality, and the price is amazingly low at just € 13. Even though your Lab Times reviewer insistently searched for flaws, he found none.

The Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius Palms calendar is also available in a “large” (34 x 49 cm) version that has only 12 pages and costs € 20. And for those who have a crush on palms and/or on Martius, the publishers, Taschen, also offer a hardcover Book of Palms with 442 pages for € 100.

“A terrifying beauty inside”

The October page of the Mütter Museum 2012 calendar shows skulls in a storage room of the Museum, alongside a dried anatomical preparation and skeletons in background. Photo: Arne Svenson

But now for something completely different. Those who are not interested in living plants but in dead flesh and bare bones should take a look at the unorthodox Mütter Museum 2012 Calendar, published by Blast Books and art directed and published by Laura Lindgren. This calendar is definitely not for the highly sensitive; it shows often unsettling anatomic dissections from America’s most popular medical museum, the Mütter Museum.

The Mütter Museum, located in downtown Philadelphia, is famous for its unique collection of medical oddities and pathological specimens, donated by a professor of surgery, Thomas Dent Mütter, and others since its foundation in 1858. It contains the 139-strong skull collection of 19th century Austrian anatomist Joseph Hyrtl, skeletons of a giant and a dwarf, a wax model of a woman with a horn growing out of her forehead, a piece of tissue removed from the body of Abraham Lincoln’s murderer, and a plethora of other anatomical and pathological showpieces of medical and scientific relevance.

The eleventh edition of this calendar comes with 12 skilful images of the museum’s fascinating collection, shot by first-rate professional photographers including Arne Svenson, Scott Irvine, Max Aguilera-Hellweg and Rosamond Purcell. Their images arouse a magnetic fascination in the spectator, for example when we look at the back of the skull of a mohammedan robber, shot dead 150 years ago in a skirmish with Austrian riflemen; or view a foetal pig fetus with rhinencephaly (a severely malformed nose in the form of a tube that is found above or below the complete or partial fusion of the eyes). The calendar, measuring 29 x 27 cm is available from any bookshop or directly at for € 18.

Please note that this calendar is a sought-after collector’s item and will increase in value significantly in just a few years. For example, specimens from 2009 are now traded for € 31 and those of 2002, if good as new, for as much as € 80!

Without edge and corner

Another unusual calendar comes from Southern Germany. The Optikus, invented by Johannes Siethoff from Würzburg, is probably the first round calendar to also confuse the spectator with its visual effects and illusions. As the Californian glam metal band Ratt once stated, “Round and round – what comes around goes around.”

Delivered with a stable “build-it-yourself” rack, made either from medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or acrylic glass, this round toy can be placed on the desk as well as on the lab bench. The Optikus is shipped with 12 sheets of paper that have 12 different coloured and shaped designs (spirals, stars, concentric rings and other geometric figures), one for every month. When turned manually around the rack’s axle, most of these images change their appearance in the spectator’s mind, giving a perception that does not correspond with reality (for example a continually twisting spiral).

The Optikus 2012 calendar can be ordered in seven basic designs, including “Planets”, “Spirals” and “Light and Design”, each costing € 18.90. The diameter of the monthly paper sheets is 20 cm, the overall height of the installed calendar about 26 cm. It is packaged in a flat wrapper and can be ordered at

Byproduct of scientists’ daily routine

An Arctiid moth, Chamaita spec., shot in diffused light with a Leica LED5000 HDI microscope by Australian entomologist Ken Walker. Photo: Ken Walker (from the Leica 2012 calendar)

The fourth, and last, calendar reviewed is the product of a scientific photo competition, organised by Leica Micro­systems. The twelve photographs included in this collapsable 60 x 42 cm wall calen­dar were taken by scientists like you and me during their daily research. They show us human skin and a parotid gland, photographed with routine light microscopes; the beautiful anthers of Arabidopsis thaliana, shot and magnified 20x by an Estonian geneticist with a confocal microscope, is there to be admired; we can marvel at neural primary culture cells from a rat brain, captured by Leica’s new hybrid detector for confocal systems, and many more.

It’s incomprehensible that only one of the big four microscope manu­facturers, Zeiss, Olympus, Nikon and Leica, arranges such a competition. Olympus, of course, has other problems at the moment (see page 41 in this issue), but Nikon and Zeiss have missed an unique chance for self promotion that is available to nobody else: by presenting impressive photographs, made with the company’s own products.

Unfortunately, Leica doesn’t make full use of the opportunity. The Leica 2012 calendar comes along with small image sizes, while its paper is, even if embossed, not of the strongest quality. In addition, there’s only poor information about the photographer, ambient conditions, preparation methods and the object depicted.

Win a great calendar!

To have the opportunity of winning one of five Optikus 2012 and three Leica 2012 wall calendars, you must answer the following two questions:

  • The German botanist and explorer, Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius, is connected by just two people with his compatriot, the romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn. Who are these two people?
  • The Mütter Museum has a kindred establishment in the German capital. Which grey-bearded pathologist founded that establishment 112 years ago?

Please email the three(!) names to (including your name and postal address). The eight winners will be selected at random. All correct answers received before December 20th 2011 will be considered. Good luck!

Letzte Änderungen: 29.07.2013