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Collecting Info: Book Reviews

Botany Books

McVaugh, Rogers. EDWARD PALMER: Plant Explorer of the American West. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956.

Wilson, Ernest H. PLANT HUNTING. 2 vols. Boston: Stratford Co., 1927.

Davis, Wade. ONE RIVER: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest. NY: S&S, 1996, ISBN: 0-684-80886-2.

While the hardships endured by these field botanists rivaled or exceeded those of the great polar explorers, their achievements have largely been ignored. No television documentaries, no coffee table books mark their staggering triumphs. Yet I think their contribution is the greater. Motivated not by nationalism, nor the burning ambition to be "first," these were not adventurers but scientists. Mostly working alone, Palmer in the American West, Wilson in China, and Richard Evans Schultes in South America (as described in ONE RIVER) made invaluable botanical contributions-contributions which advanced our knowledge of everything from medicine and anthropology to economic uses of rubber and other plants. With the Axis powers choking off rubber in Asia, Schultes for instance, spent much of World War II deep in the Amazon rain forest in a solitary quest for high-yield rubber plants. Hostile natives, disease, impossibly rugged terrain, loneliness-these books document a rare brand of heroism.

For the beginning collector of books on botanical exploration, these three books are an excellent place to start. None are truly rare although the Wilson is uncommon and all are excellent reading.
Content provided by Paul Bauer, Archer's Used and Rare Books.

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