Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/259

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247
LITERARY NOTICES

science, and a book of reference for the veterinary surgeon, but it is also available for the zoologist, the comparative anatomist, the ethnologist, and the medical practitioner. Although we have had good books on the structure of the horse, this is the first complete treatise on the anatomy of the domesticated animals in the English language, and will contribute materially to the progress of veterinary science, while being useful also to the community at large.

Our Common Insects. A Popular Account of the Insects of our Fields, Forests, Gardens, and Houses. Illustrated with 4 Plates and 268 Woodcuts. By A. S. Packard, M. D. 225 pages. Price, $2.50. Salem: Naturalists' Agency. Boston: Estes & Lauriat. New York: Dodd & Mead.

Dr. Packard has done an excellent thing in preparing this little hand-book. His large "Guide to the Study of Insects," with upward of 700 pages and 1,200 figures, although reduced to five dollars in price, is still too expensive for the great mass of readers; and it was therefore well to distill it over, with the contents of the American Naturalist, into a more portable and popular form. Good and cheap books on insects require to be multiplied, for we are all interested in them. They infest us inside and out, by day and by night, sleeping and waking, at home and abroad; they damage our food, poison our drink, spoil our clothes, kill our domestic animals, ravage our gardens, blast our fruit, and destroy our crops. The subject cannot be ignored, but we naturally approach it with prejudice. There are, however, compensations in all things. Although insects may be our enemies, they are yet scientifically very interesting creatures. We all have a high opinion of Nature, and are never done praising her; but she runs to insects incontinently—they could outvote all the rest of the animal kingdom five to one. As the higher tribes of life have been perishing out in multitudes along the geological march, it cannot be doubted that the same thing has happened in a much greater degree to the insects, although their vestiges were, of course, more difficult of preservation. But Dr. Packard tells us that there are upward of 200,000 living species, and, as species are held by many to be immutable, each one having been specially created, we have a clew to the exact number of miracles that these pests have cost: though why miraculous contrivance took such an excessive turn in this direction will perhaps be found explained in Dr. Bushnell's book of "Dark Things." But, however they came, the insects are here, a part of the world of life, growing, multiplying, and dying, like ourselves; undergoing curious transformations, and animated by wonderful instincts—social, industrious, and most instructive in all their ways and history. Dr. Packard selects the most common, those that are easily—often too easily—observed, and gives us their various stories with an interest that is quite romantic. His volume is compact with information upon the subject, and is adapted to all intelligent readers; but, for sensible boys and girls, it is worth a whole library of the fictitious drivel that now forms so large a part of the mental nourishment of the young.

This volume consists mainly of reprinted matter, but it contains a new and admirable chapter entitled "Hints on the Ancestry of Insects." The irrepressible question of origins is not to be escaped, and, as it has long haunted the souls of botanists, it now begins to torment the entomological soul. Insects cannot be studied without being classed, and they cannot be classed without knowing their resemblances and affinities, and these cannot be made out except through their embryological or developmental history. The question how things are runs into the question how they came to be, and the first thesis of Scripture becomes the last problem of science—that is, genesis. Dr. Packard inclines to the view that the primal ancestors of insects were worms, and he assumes without hesitation the doctrine of evolution as best explaining the facts of the science. We quote one or two passages upon this point:

"Many short-sighted persons complain that such a theory sets in the background the idea of a personal Creator; but minds no less devout, and perhaps a trifle more thoughtful, see the hand of a Creator not less in the evolution of plants and animals from preëxistent forms, through natural