|Don't judge me by my cover|
Days later, unloading my box of "new" old books, I opened this unprepossessing volume and, to my delight, found an inscription by the author:
An author's signature always makes a book more interesting. Looking further, I found two foldout sheets showing (separately--one shown below) the branching evolution of the plant families treated in the work.
|Diagram of plant family|
But here is the icing on the bibliocake, as it were:
On the book's title page, in the same ink and same hand as the inscription, the author added a note of clarification. The present volume covers only two families in the plant kingdom, and thus MacFarlane calls it "Volume I." He was 78 years of age when this volume was published. Did he hope to complete the work or that other botanists would take it up and pursue it to conclusion? In his preface, he calls this book a "set of preliminary studies."
The fashion for tracing evolution of species from sample plants had its heyday in the nineteenth century. (Another of MacFarlane's works in evolution and distribution has to do with "fishes" and is much easier to find than this book on plants.) In our own time, interest has shifted to the cellular level and below, with scientists relying on DNA samples to pinpoint biological origins and migratory paths around the globe. And yet, how painstaking and laborious must have been this author's work, how passionate his devotion, and how fond the hopes he cherished!