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The Rarest Of The Rare Hardcover – Oct 24 2004


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Rather like a natural history museum, this book contains arresting visuals and intriguing facts but has a vaguely musty air about it. Pick, a staff writer for the Harvard Museum of Natural History, traces the growth of the institution and the accretion of its millions of animal, vegetable, fossil and mineral specimens, asserting the continuing relevance of collecting and studying whole organisms in this age of molecular biology. (As Harvard entomologist Edward O. Wilson writes in the introduction, "Biology could not have advanced without the collections of museums like this one.") The bulk of the book is devoted to photographs of flora and fauna (or rather, their taxidermied or fossilized remains), accompanied by matter-of-fact commentary about their biology or provenance. Stuffed birds, pickled turtle embryos and tapeworms taken from the intestinal tracts of "upper-crust Bostonians" share space with a haunting fossil butterfly and an awesome plesiosaur skull. Other relics, though, fail to impress: Vladimir Nabokov's collection of butterfly genitalia, for instance, probably needs to be seen in person. The most interesting sections are those that delve into the science behind the specimens, such as the mini-essays on exotic animals and the physics of blue coloration, but these, too, are cursory and rare. 95 color photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A sampling from the 20 million specimens closeted at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the several dozen plants, animals, and minerals presented here were selected for their connections to interesting tales. The associations are sometimes either famous or bizarre, such as a woodpecker collected by Meriwether Lewis or a mastodon skeleton acquired by a Harvard professor hanged for the 1849 murder of a fellow don. Pick's choices, however, stem from the desire to depict her institution's two-century-long role in the history of biology. E. O. Wilson's introduction details the course of natural history from taxonomic description to molecular biology to evolutionary biology; Pick prefaces the main text with an essay detailing the fluctuations in the museum's reputation. Aided by Sloan's excellent photographs, Pick then groups specimens into extinct species, species discovered by museum scientists, or specimens studied by world-famous Harvard scientists such as Ernst Mayr and the late Stephen Jay Gould. This work is a beautiful showcase that will arrest the interest of every passing browser. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Inside This Book

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Peale, who founded America's first scientific museum in Philadelphia in 1784, taught himself the art of taxidermy. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 10 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Something for everyone! Nov. 13 2004
By Alexander George - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully produced book, as carefully designed as a "coffee table" book, but without the cumbersome size and off-putting price. The book will appeal both to those with a cabinet-of-wonders curiosity and to those who are more interested in the scientific relevance of this great museum's holdings. Aside from its production, there are three great stars to the book. First, its writing: clear, humorous, informative and narratively driven. Second, its photographs: gorgeous, telling, often interestingly angled. Finally, its selection: a wide-ranging collection of different kinds of objects with very varied histories and significances. -- Again, everyone will find something in this book, and most people will find a lot indeed.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A Treasure to Read and See!!! Nov. 5 2004
By E. Kochvar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In an age increasingly dominated by TV and the Internet, it's great to find

a book that both captures your imagination and caters to people with a short

attention span!!! The Rarest is a series of fascinating stories wrapped

around artifacts from the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The coolest

thing about this book is that each story is self-contained. Just open the

book to a random page and get the skinny on "The Last Wolf Nose." Flip to

another section and learn about "The Mastadon Murder." If you have kids who

like to learn about nature, these little vignettes are perfect educational

bedtime stories. Photos are beautiful.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A TRULY OUTSTANDING BOOK!!!!!!! Dec 10 2004
By Darwin Mayr Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a gem of a book. A rare combination of science, history, and photography. The book presents the history of Harvard's Museum of Natural History and the great scientific treasures it holds. Nancy Pick's wonderful writing style includes historical information on how the specimens came into the collection and on the scientific importance of these specimens. You get to see material collected by Lewis and Clark, Captain Cook, Darwin, Nabokov, and many, many others. There is something here for everybody: birds, insects, orchids, mammals, fishes, reptiles, etc. This is truly an outstanding book.
Great subject, great text, great photos. Sept. 10 2005
By Robert J. Frishman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've wandered through that musuem and been impressed, but this book brings my appreciation and awe to an entirely new level. I don't know whether to make a return visit or just reread the book whenever I need to be reminded of that treasure house in Cambridge. Nancy Pick's text is like a curator tour of the collection highlights; the best tour you could imagine.
Interesting Book Jan. 13 2009
By PAL - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I had looked forward to getting this book for a while and have enjoyed it very much. This would make a nice gift book for a museum or natural history lover. It makes a lovely coffe table book as well but not just for looks but for reading.


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