Slack, Henry J.

Marvels of Pond Life; or a Year's Microscopic Recreations Among the Polyps, Infusoria, Rotifers, Water-Bears, and Polyzoa

  • First edition, first impression of this attractive and well-illustrated popular guide to field microscopy. Excellent condition and uncommon thus. Marvels of Pond Life was based on a full year of observations carried out by the newspaper editor, author, and activist Henry J. Slack, who advocated "causes such as the abolition of slavery, the ending of the paper duties, and the higher education of women", and in his spare time was " an ardent microscopist... successively secretary and president (1878) of the Royal Microscopical Society" (ODNB). For this volume Slack took samples from ponds in and around London during 1860 and carefully recorded the microscopic animals he found there, while his wife completed drawings for the illustrations from his live samples. The book opens with a short chapter titled "Hints on Microscopes and Their Management", and each that follows explains the discoveries made during one month of the year, including tips on capturing and viewing the animals and information regarding their biology and habits. Slack conversationally discusses and illustrates a wide variety of creatures, including rotifers, vorticellae, polyps, infusoria, and the enigmatic tardigarde or water-bear, which he describes as "a little puppy-shaped animal very busy pawing about with eight imperfect legs, but not making much progress with all his efforts... a very comical amusing little fellow he was... each of the eight legs were provided with four serviceable claws, there was no tail, and the blunt head was susceptible of considerable alteration of shape. He was grubbing about among some bits of decayed vegetation, and from the mass of green matter in his stomach, it was evident that he was not one of that painfully numerous class in England - the starving poor" (pp 172-173). Marvels of Pond Life was popular enough to be reprinted four times through the 1890s, but copies of the first edition in such nice condition are uncommon.
  • London: Groombridge and Sons, 1861. Octavo. Original green cloth elaborately blocked in blind, titles to spine and upper board gilt, yellow coated endpapers. Frontispiece and 6 plates, line drawings throughout the text. With the errata slip at page 158. Small contemporary bookplate and bookseller's ticket to front pastedown, contemporary ownership inscription to front pastedown and at head of introduction. Cloth overall fresh with just a little rubbing at the extremities, half-title partially tanned, small mark slightly affecting fore-edge and margins of final leaves. A lovely copy in excellent condition. Bibliography: Freeman, British Natural History Books 3431.

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