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Holder, Charles Frederick

Living Lights: A Popular Account of Phosphorescent Animals and Vegetables

  • First edition, first impression of this uncommon and evocative volume on bioluminescence. Charles Frederick Holder (1851-1915) was a naturalist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History, as well as one of the founders of big-game fishing and the author of books on science, zoology, and fishing for the general public. Living Lights describes many sources of bioluminescence, including deep sea creatures, insects, fungi, plants, amphibians, birds, and mammals. The text is interspersed with engaging first-hand accounts from a variety of sources, including the tale of a Napoleonic general who went into battle with beetles pinned to his hat, and the use of fire-flies as accessories in South America:

    "Some years ago an American gentleman, visiting in one of the large cities of South America, was invited to a masquerade ball at one of the finest private residences in the city. The ball-room was the garden - a veritable fairy-land abounding in plants of the most novel and beautiful description - and upon the grass had been laid an extended platform for the dancers. It was moonlight when the festivities began, and no artificial lights were used; yet at various intervals among the flowers soft gleams appeared, apparently for ornament. Among the first comers was a tall gentleman dressed in a style of several centuries ago, a most picturesque costume; but what particularly attracted the attention of the American were the decorations of this gentleman and his companion. Around the broad-brimmed hat he wore a band of what appeared, from a distance, to be gems, that flashed like diamonds, presenting a magnificent appearance. The lady's costume was still more remarkable, being fairly ablaze with these brilliant scintillations. As the evening wore on, he was presented to these maskers, when he found that the light proceeded from innumerable luminous insects which had been secured by delicate wires, and fastened upon the hat and the lady's dress. About the garden, hundreds of the insects were confined in delicate glass globes which, without emitting much light, added to the charm and novelty of the surroundings" (pp. 59-60).

  • New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1887. Octavo. Original light and dark green cloth, titles to spine gilt on red ground, titles and jellyfish design blocked in silver and red to upper board, red top-stain. Frontispiece and 25 plates. 2 ownership ink stamps to front blank. Spine rolled and toned, cloth rubbed at the extremities with some small worn spots at the corners and edges of boards, some small yellow spots to upper board, contents lightly tanned. A very good copy.

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