Dragons in Amber: Further Adventures of a Romantic Naturalist

Dragons in Amber: Further Adventures of a Romantic Naturalist

Dragons in Amber: Further Adventures of a Romantic Naturalist

Dragons in Amber: Further Adventures of a Romantic Naturalist

Excerpt

Among the letters I received after publication of my earlier book, The Lungfish, the Dodo, and the Unicorn, there was one in which my correspondent said that he had been looking for such a book for a long time, that he had always wanted to read a book of that kind. And then he asked me why I wrote it. I replied, "For the same reason." That goes for the present book too; I wrote it because nobody else had.

In looking over the table of contents I am surprised by one thing. Natural history is generally regarded as a rather static science which had its heyday and its revolutions during the nineteenth century. For a static science, a lot has happened to it during the two and a half decades since I sat in college lecture halls hearing about these same subjects. What I have written about amber now could have been written then, minus a few historical facts and a few examples. But as for the footprints of Chirotherium (Chapter 3), I was authoritatively informed that they would remain mysterious forever. Chapters 4 and 5 could have been written then, but as for the milu (Chapter 6), I was told that "by now it is probably extinct." The giant panda (Chapter 7) had "been seen alive by only one or two white men." The bird takahe (Chapter 8) was "extinct." The ginkgo (Chapter 9) was considered "a very rare tree"; this particular judgment was influenced by the fact that this was in Europe where the ginkgo is a rare tree.

Two of the chapters of this book, "The Story of the Milu" and "The Story of the Fish Anguilla," originally appeared in condensed form in Natural History Magazine, published by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; the editor kindly permitted the use of these articles in this book.

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