Friday, May 02, 2008

Three book day

We went into Vancouver today, to meet a friend for lunch at the Art Gallery. (The art was not to our taste today, but the food was. The food always is.)

Mirrored building, blending into the old city below, the clouds above.

Afterwards, we walked a few blocks to our favourite used books place, MacLeod's Books. I was tired, and sat in a comfortable chair browsing old Edgar Allan Poe stories and Jane Austen titles; I finally dozed off over a book Laurie brought me. He has more stamina, and a good half-hour later came to rouse me with four more books in hand, three classics for him, and another for me.

He had found me a copy of "Rats, Lice and History", by Hans Zinsser (1934), a book I had once owned but had somehow misplaced. Or lent, which amounts to the same thing.

The book is a "biography" of typhus, examining its pre-history, its assorted hosts, its effects on world affairs, its place in the family of diseases that plague humankind. Not to the taste of all, but one of the classics of modern bacteriology. And related with a wry humour;
The louse was not always the dependent, parasitic creature that cannot live away from its host. There were once free and liberty-loving lice, who could look other insects in their multifaceted eyes and bid them smile when they called them "louse."

Cleaning up an old fa├žade.

The first book he had found for me was "Spiders", by W.S. Bristowe. He was, according to Wikipedia, "an English naturalist, a prolific and popular scientific writer and authority on spiders." The book I have was published in 1947, and has only 30 pages of text (a short, but fascinating, essay); the rest of the book is taken up by 24 plates of hand-painted spiders, done by an A.T. Hollick in 1867-70 and not published at that time.

Here is one of the plates:

Caption reads, "Philodromus fallax Sund. Female." The smaller drawing, I think, represents the actual size of the spider. On the page it is 2 cm, at the widest stretch.

And from the essay, here is a sample quote from the first page:
Not so Topsell. (17th century) Hear what beauty he discerned in a House Spider: 'The skin of it is so soft, smooth, polished and neat, that she precedes the softest skin'd Mayds, and the daintiest and most beautiful Strumpets ... she hath fingers that the most gallant Virgins desire to have theirs like them, long, slender, round, of exact feeling, that there is no man, nor any creature, that can compare with her'.
But he doesn't spend too much time with ancient opinions; soon enough, he is testing spiders' stamina by making them run, then taking their pulse. And under one of his own drawings of spider fangs, he writes, "Imagine two million pairs of jaws in an acre field." Eep! It's almost enough to stop me walking barefoot in the grass!

In the centre of all the hustle, sharp edges, and construction mess, this pocket of calm.

One more book, this time a new one; in the evening, we went to the book launch party for Anne Murray's new Boundary Bay book, "Tracing Our Past". The first book, "A Nature Guide to Boundary Bay", was a valuable resource. This one promises to be even better. More on it later.

(Photos (except for the book plate) were quick snapshots as we walked from the Vancouver Art Gallery to the bookstore.)


  1. Sounds like you came a way with some good finds!

    Glad to know that the restaurant in the Art Gallery is good. We wondered, last time we were through. We'll have to try it out.

  2. HI, Cis!

    When you go to the Art Gallery, make sure you get there early. We try to be there by 11:30 AM, because shortly after that, the crowds arrive and line up. Everybody else likes it, too. :)


If your comment is on a post older than a week, it will be held for moderation. Sorry about that, but spammers seem to love old posts!

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!