Biology & Natural History
[Art Nouveau] | Art Nouveau Floral Desk Seal
A lovely Art Nouveau desk seal in carved boxwood depicting a bouquet of flowers.
Carved boxwood desk seal, circa 1900. 850 x 350mm. No monogram or device to the base. A couple of very minor nicks in the wood, slight wear at the base. Excellent condition.
[Blanchard] Cobb, Frieda | A Case of Mendelian Inheritance Complicated by Heterogametism
The uncommon offprint of the dissertation of geneticist and scientific administrator Frieda Blanchard, née Cobb (1889-1977), the first scientist to demonstrate Mendelian inheritance in a reptile.
Cobb’s father, Nathan Augustus Cobb, was a pioneering plant pathologist who involved his daughters in his work, particularly in their home laboratory. “Frieda developed an enthusiasm for science and a love for plants and animals. In Hawaii, where her father studied the diseases of sugar cane, Frieda worked in the laboratory he organised” (Ogilvie p. 141). She attended Radcliffe College and completed her bachelor’s at the University of Illinois in 1916.
“In the fall of 1916, after a summer helping her father with nematode research at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Frieda Cobb moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the request of Harley Harris Bartlett, director of the University of Michigan Botanical Gardens, and a pioneer in plant genetics. There she became not only his graduate student but also, in 1919, the assistant director of the gardens. Together, Bartlett and Cobb developed the gardens as a major center for Oenothera (evening primrose) research as they tried to solve some of the puzzles in the newly developing science of genetics. Cobb earned her doctorate in 1920 with a study of Mendelian inheritance in certain strains of Oenothera. Because Bartlett was often away from Ann Arbour, Cobb became the active administrator of the gardens, maintaining facilities for scientific research and an atmosphere conducive to such research. That arrangement continued until the 1950s when both retired” (Ogilvie, p. 141).
Cobb married the herpetologist Frank N. Blanchard in 1922, and they worked together on the garter snake, with Frieda concentrating on genetics. “Their work, carried on over many years, provided the first demonstration of Mendelian inheritance in a reptile” and when Frank died in 1937, Frieda “continued their work as well as her other research and raised their three children” (Ogilvie. p. 141).
...and Mutation in Oenothera Pratincola. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan. [Offprint from] Genetics Vol. 6, No. 1, January 1921. Genetics, 1921.
44 page offprint. Original grey wrappers printed in black, hidden staples. Contemporary pencilled note to the upper wrapper. Ink stamp of the University of Bonn on the verso of the title. Wrappers very lightly rubbed and toned, with small discoloured spots from the staples. Excellent condition.
[Chargaff, Erwin] Schrader, Franz | Mitosis. The Movements of Chromosomes in Cell Division
Third printing of this influential work, originally published in 1944. From the library of molecular biologist Erwin Chargaff (1905-2002), with this ownership signature in ink on the front free endpaper.
Chargaff’s work elucidated key concepts about DNA and provided part of the groundwork for Watson and Crick’s discovery of its structure. Chargaff’s rules, as they are now known, state that the quantities of the four nucleotides are always linked - guanine matching that of cytosine and adenine with thiamine, and that the relative amounts of each vary from species to species. These observations strongly hinted that the nucleotides carried the genetic information (rather than the protein components, as had been thought previously), and, most importantly, that DNA could have a double structure - the key to the cell’s ability to both read and replicate it. “Chargaff discussed the results at a tetchy meeting with Watson and Crick in May 1952, and later told Horace Judson, the historian of the discovery of DNA, that ‘they impressed me by their extreme ignorance’” (Guardian obituary). Chargaff’s contributions, along with those of Rosalind Franklin, were ignored by the Nobel Prize committee, leading to his bitterness in later life.
The present text is a significant in our understanding of the physical processes involved in cell division. Franz Schrader (1891-1962) was a Columbia University cytologist who, in 1932, began studying spindles, the structures in cells that form during cell division and pull apart the copied chromosomes. Mitosis “placed what was known of these subjects under searching analysis and offered new directions for research on chromosomal movements” (Cooper, Franz Schrader: A Biographical Memoir, National Academy of Sciences, 1993). An excellent association.
- New York, Morningside: Columbia University Press, 1949. Octavo. Original blue cloth, titles to spine gilt. 1 double-sided plate, illustrations within the text. Very lightly rubbed at the tips, small blue sink spots on the upper edge of the text block. Excellent condition.
[Seaweed] | An exceptional Victorian seaweed album
A sumptuous, mid-19th century seaweed album, unusually finely bound and containing eighty specimens.
Most seaweed albums we have handled have been simply bound in skiver or paper-covered blank books. This example, however, is in green morocco with elaborate gold tooling and attractive, gilt patterned endpapers. The specimens are among the most beautiful we have seen, delicate, artfully arranged, and retaining their colour and texture, and they represent an unusually varied selection of species. Each one is individually mounted on white card, and hand-labelled with its scientific name and the location where it was collected. Most were found in Cumbria, at Roa and Piel Islands off the Furness Peninsula, as well as the mainland beaches of Roose, Baycliff, Aldingham, Bardsea, Saltcoats, Rampside, Flimby, and Maryport. Also represented are nearby Ayrshire in southwest Scotland, as well as more exotic locales: the Isle of Mann, Gibralter, Tangier, and one location given only as “Mediterranean”.
Seaweed collecting was, together with other types of natural history collecting and scrapbooking, a popular occupation for young women during the Victorian era. Inspired in part by the Romantic Movement's reverence for nature, it was considered a wholesome way for women to engage with the outdoors, and it also functioned as a social accomplishment indicating one's suitability for marriage and family life.
Nature was at the centre of the Victorian domestic imagination, and "one reason for the appearance of various representations of the natural world in the parlour. was a continuing apprehension of the world as beautiful - or at least a continuing prestige attached to those who were sensible of that beauty" (Logan, The Victorian Parlour, p. 142). Nature was inextricably tied to religious and moral edification, with amateur collectors "drawn to the study of the natural world as a culturally approved form of recreation. seen as aesthetically pleasing, educational and morally beneficial, since [nature] lifted the mind to a new appreciation of God" (Logan, p. 144).
"Queen Victoria as a young girl made a seaweed album; later in the century, materials for such an album could be purchased at seaside shops like that of Mary Wyatt in Torquay, who specialized in natural souvenirs" (Logan, p. 124). "In the late 19th Century, the books Sea Mosses: A Collector's Guide and An Introduction to the Study of Marine Algae by A. B. Hervey outlined how to properly press and mount various types of algae. The tools needed are a pair of pliers, scissors, a stick with a needle in the end, at least two 'wash bowls,' botanist's 'drying paper,' or some kind of blotting paper, cotton cloth, and finally cards to mount the specimens on. Pliers and scissors are used to handle the specimens and cut away any extraneous, 'superfluous' branches, and the needle is used like a pencil so that the plant can be moved around with relative ease to show the finer details. The drying and pressing process consists of layering the mounting papers with various types of blotting cloth and additional paper topped with weights; in this case the weights suggested by Hervey are 50 lbs. worth of rocks found by the seashore. Most seaweed in this case will adhere to the mounting board via gelatinous materials emitted from the plant itself" (Harvard University, Mary A. Robinson online exhibition).
United Kingdom, mid-19th century.
Tall quarto (288 x 227 mm). Contemporary green morocco rebacked with the original spine laid down, spine elaborately gilt in compartments, elaborate gilt rules and rolls to boards, cornerpieces, gilt turn-ins and patterned endpapers, all edges gilt. 24 leaves of green paper with 80 specimens mounted on white paper inserts of various sizes, each labelled with scientific name and location in manuscript, tissue guards. Rebacked as noted above, small repairs to corners, binding rubbed and scuffed, occasional light spots and toning of contents, one specimen lacking. Very good condition.