THIS book, being a fairly creditable and careful specimen of its kind, seems to offer a fitting opportunity for denouncing the whole class of “cram” books of which it is a member. It purports to be notes on physiology, compiled originally, while the author was a demonstrator in the Liverpool School of Medicine, for the use of those students of the school who were preparing for the primary examination of the College of Surgeons; and it is confessedly based upon Foster's “Physiology;” and the two chief anatomical text-books used in England. It is a small 18mo of about 230 pages, clearly printed in a large type, and it contains a number of condensed and dogmatic statements in all departments of physiology. It is, we rejoice to be able to say, written perspicuously and compiled with evident care. Most of what Mr. Ashby has read in Foster he has accurately digested and dogmatised. But though he has thus almost disarmed criticism as to his particular book, the book still remains infected with the vices of its class; it is a delusion and a snare to the student; and we heartily wish Mr. Ashby's talents had found a worthier object for their exercise. “Notes” are undoubtedly of the greatest value to a student—nay, they are indispensable, if he is to acquire a large view of his subject; but they are only valuable when the student has compiled them himself from the larger text-books, or, better still, from original memoirs, or when he has seen them digested and set down, so to speak, before his eyes by his teacher. Each of the sentences in his book Mr. Ashby doubtless could and would make the text of a lucid explanation in his lectures or demonstrations. He would lay before his hearers the different views of observers on different physiological questions, as he had learnt them, and, balancing the evidence, he would abstract for them a trustworthy judgment in a careful and concise statement: and the student who took down his notes, on re-reading them, would have the whole discussion refreshed in his mind with more or less vividness—would, in fact, have almost all the benefit of condensing the notes for himself. But when these concise statements or formulæ are put into the hands of students who have not been thus prepared for them, the case is wholly different. Aladdin has the lamp, indeed, but he can conjure up no powerful genii with it.
Notes on Physiology, for the Use of Students Preparing for Examination.
By Henry Ashby. (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1878.)
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