Buried Treasure

Sally Emerson on 'The Universe, the Infinitely Great and Infinitely Little' by FA Pouchet
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New scientific books or reference books are not necessarily improvements on old ones. Try checking a fact in the difficult-to-use latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, then check it in the 1911 version, and suddenly there it is, in all its complexity, written about with scholarship, panache and affection.

New scientific books or reference books are not necessarily improvements on old ones. Try checking a fact in the difficult-to-use latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, then check it in the 1911 version, and suddenly there it is, in all its complexity, written about with scholarship, panache and affection.

The Universe, the Infinitely Great and Infinitely Little (1884) by FA Pouchet, published by Blackie, has that same spirit of wonderment in the poetic text and the engravings, showing everything from "Return of Ants after a Battle, Magnified" (the ants carrying their captors) to "The Floating Nests of the Little Grebe", which has the air of a fairy tale.

The subject matter - and, remember, this is only one volume - is the whole of the natural world, and all the stars and planets. There is an innocence here, and an enthusiasm, that makes our age seem tired. Certainly, a facsimile should be produced, with the eagle flying out of the embossed golden sun - the sense of entering another time through the door of a book.

Sally Emerson has edited 'In Loving Memory: a Collection for Memorial Services, Funerals and Just Getting By' (Little, Brown)

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