My quest to identify a mystery book simply titled “Natural History” continues…
Today I went to the National Library (BAnQ) to renew my membership and request an Inter-Library Loan (PEB) for Bernard BARR’s book about William Milner. Hopefully this time it will work and the fee won’t be too expensive. While I was there I had a look at their impressive manga collection and borrowed a volume of The Walking Dead comics (I am a book geek in various spectrum!)…
I have decided not to request an Inter-Library Loan (PEB) for Richard COPE’s book (the most likely candidate for the identity of the mystery book) but to directly go the University of Montreal library to check the copy they have and compare it to my book. After all, I am already downtown, so why not take the time now to resolve this question. It can be found at the media division (médiathèque) of the Library of Letters and Humanities (Bibliothèque des Lettres et sciences humaines – BLSH). Actually, they don’t have a copy of the book itself but a copy on microfiches.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the online catalog indicated an “on shelf” status, the entire Landmark Microfiche collection had been boxed as the media section is about to be moved. I was a little pissed but convinced the clerk to at least open a few boxes to see if he couldn’t find the microform set that I needed. He was clearly unwilling to help and said “You know, we’re closing in an hour and half!”. But I just needed ten minutes… It would be easy if they had been boxed alphabetically: since the author is “COPE” it would be in the first boxes. He reluctantly opened the first five boxes and indeed it was there (in box four)! I sat at one of the microform reader and had a look. Unfortunately, this machine was not equipped to make copies, so I simply took pictures with my iPhone (which I had to put together later at home, converting them from negative to positive). I took my time, but after fifteen minutes I was done. However, I could finally confirm the identity of my book!
First, I’ve been able to see the pages that were missing from my book (although nothing in the binding let us suspect that something is missing—or maybe the binding was changed at some point in the past?), mostly the title page, the introductory remarks (indicating that the original publishing date is 1840) and the index of subjects:
For me the most important aspect was to be able to see the title page:
A DESCRIPTION OF THE EARTH AND OF ANIMATED NATURE,
COMPILED FROM THE WORKS OF
BUFFON, GOLDSMITH, CUVIER, SHAW, VAILLANT, HUMBOLT, AUDUBON. &c., &c.
A NEW EDITION, IMPROVED AND ENLARGED
BY RICHARD COPE, LL.D., F.A.S.,
Author of the Pulpit Synopsis, Religious Anecdotes, Domestic Altar, &c., &c., &c.
“Creation teems with life,
From the gay flies that people the sunbeam,
To the huge whale whose home is in the deep,
And the wise elephant that shades him in the forest.”
WITH FOUR HUNDRED & TWENTY-FIVE ENGRAVINGS
OF BIRDS, BEASTS, FISHES, REPTILES, &c.
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM MILNER,
If we compare a few pages, we can see that it is the same book (my copy (a) on the left and the Université de Montréal microfiche copy (b) on the right):
After comparison it is evident that the layout and the type are exactly the same. Beside the missing pages, the only differences are (possibly) the cover (my cover is a simple cloth on board, with raised bands and the title hot-stamped in gold on the spine while the microfiche copy is illustrated—although it is not clear if this is really a cover illustration or an inside cover page) and (definitely) the line of text at the very bottom of the last page of my book (“WILLIAM MILNER, PRINTER, CHEAPSIDE, HALIFAX.”) is completely missing for the microfiche copy. My conclusion is that it is indeed the same book, although a different edition (either a cheaper one or a different year of publication — but, save for the last page, it is clearly the same printing plates).
Now that I have identified for sure the book as Natural History by Richard COPE, I only have to wait for the Bernard BARR’s book to see if I can learn more details about the publisher, William Milner, and maybe also about the various editions of COPE’s Natural History. So, it is still to be continued…
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