Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book Review: "The Grandeur of Life"

The Grandeur of Life: A Celebration of Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species, by William B. Ashworth, Jr., accompanies an exhibit by the same name at the Linda Hall Library (Kansas City, MO). In just 91 pages (including index and bibliography) this short catalog provides a short but useful overview of natural history scholarship from the dawn of printing through 24 November 1859, when Darwin's Origin was published.

The 57 items included in the catalog are each described in some detail, including information on authors, illustrators and illustrative processes, publication, and sources for the work. Each example is accompanied by several excellent images, usually a detail from the work. The catalog includes a wide range of works, covering the usual botany and zoology as well as the emerging fields of what we now know as geology, paleontology, and biogeography. The final section includes Darwin's pre-Origin publications, as well as earlier works postulating some elements of evolutionary processes.

A colorful, vibrant compilation.