14 June 2006

The oldest book and the scientific paper I own

This is a meme of sorts that I saw at Duane's Abnormal Interests. Compared to Duane's oldest book from 1802, however, mine would be considered "new": Sanborn Tenney's 1872 A Manual of Zoölogy.


Tenney was a creationist. All but about 4 pages of the 535 pages of text in his book deal with descriptions of animals. In those remaining 4 pages, Tenney manages to refute evolution in his own way and concludes that "On the contrary, careful observers have been led to believe that animals as well as plants have been created by an Omniscient Being, in the places, and for the places, which they now occupy".

As Duane notes the "wonderful" illustrations in his old books, I value Tenney's book for the more than 500 engravings in it. This is one of them.


The oldest original copy of a scientific paper I own is George B. Simpson's 1901 "Anatomy and physiology of Polygyra albolabris and Limax maximus" published in the Bulletin of the New York State Museum. I have photocopies of much older papers, but they don't count.


Unlike Tenney's book, Simpson's paper is still quite useful for the unique and hard-to-find information it provides about the 2 species of terrestrial gastropods that were the subjects. The drawing below from Simpson's paper shows the "position of the pulmonary cavity, in relation to the volutions of the animal [Neohelix albolabris]". I have not seen a similar drawing of another species of snail in any other publication.


OK, here is a question. Why was zoology spelled as zoölogy until even the early 1960s? I don't know the answer.


Vasha said...

I think I will beat just about everybody for "oldest book". I have one from... 1652! (It's not valuable, since it is missing several pages). The full title page says The Present State of the Ottoman Empire. Containing the Maxims of the Turkish Politie, the most material Points of the Mahometan Religion, Their Sects and Heresies, their Convents and Religious Votaries. Their Military Discipline, With an exact Computation of their Forces both by Land and Sea. Illustrated with divers Pieces of Sculpture, representing the variety of Habits amongst the Turks. By Paul Rycaut Esq; Late Secretary to His Excellency the Earl of Winchilsea, (Embassador Extraordinary for his Majesty Charles the Second, &c. to Sultan Mahomet Han the Fourth, Emperour of the Turks) now Consul of Smyrna, and Fellow of the Royal Society. I'm sorry to admit I haven't read it yet, though.


It sounds like reading the title itself is an ordeal enough!

John said...

I'm guessing the diaresis was there to remind people to pronouce two 'o' sounds rather than say something like "zu-lo-gy." (And that would be proper since the Greek root zoe only has one 'o'.) Use of diareses was much more common before the recent purge of such things.

pascal said...

That recent purge of the ö may be thanks to electric typewriters not being built for such fancy things. Now that computers are here, I am noticing a revival of such items.

coturnix said...

I have a 1866 printing of the seventh edition of "Natural History of Animals containing brief descriptions of the animals figured on Tenney's natural history tablets, but complete without the tablets, by Sanborn Tenney and Abby A. Tenney, illustrated with five hundred wood engravings chiefly of North American animals".