IN these days, when the pursuit of a “pass” is more keen than that of knowledge, the confession that an elementary text-book has been written for the use of students who are studying in classes under the Science and Art Department, and has been prepared on the lines of the syllabus of the first stage or elementary course, is apt to awake criticism, especially when, as in the present case, ten years' examination papers are printed at the end of it. But this book, though not an ideal elementary text-book, is tolerably free from the vices of cram: its merits are, in short, chiefly negative. What is urgently required at present is an elementary book of positive excellence, written (not compiled, as the present work appears to be) by an author who walks himself near the limits of our present knowledge; under these circumstances, the beginner would receive, from the very first, side lights, whether from terminology or from positive statement, which would prepare him for his more extended study. Such side lights are singularly absent from this work: take, for instance, the andræcium and gynæcium; in connection with these the word sporangium is not mentioned, nor is the word spore, except in the statement (p. 163) that the Cryptogamia “reproduce themselves by spores which contain no embryo”: thus the attempt is not made to pave the way for subsequent progress to the study of the homologies in the lower forms. Again, in describing various types of corolla, the old terms such as papilionaceous, hypocrateriform are trolled out (p. 126) with only the minimum of explanation of the romance of insect agency (p. 147); and though function is put in relation to form in treating of the stem, the chapter on leaves is singularly dry, owing to its dealing simply with form and terminology. As regards terms, fibro-vascular should not be applied generally to bundles (p. 63), and the term oospore may well give place to zygote; while “acropetalous” is, we believe, a new enormity. Many of the figures are old friends: some of the new ones are bad; for instance, Fig. 54, of the wood of pine, which is full of inaccuracies; Fig. 73 (c), in which the cambium in a two-year old shoot is as thick as the phloem; and Fig. 75, in which the bordered pits are entirely omitted; while the difference between spring and autumn wood depends mainly upon filling up the lumen of the tracheids with printer's ink. It must not be concluded from these remarks that the book is worse than others of its class: in some respects, it is above the average, but none the less the field is yet open for a book suitable for beginners, and written by a master hand, which shall deal with the elements of the science, in its modern development, in such a way as to lay a secure foundation for the future progress of the beginner, and leave him with nothing to unlearn.
By J. W. Oliver. (London: Blackie and Son, 1891.)
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