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The Story of Mountains

The Story of Mountains, by Ferdinand C. Lane. 488 pages, with tables and index; 32 full-page illustrations from photographs and a panoramic end-paper. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1950. Price, $6.50.

This is one of a series of books on global geography. Preceding volumes have dealt with seas, lakes and rivers. It is an immense assignment. The Story of Mountains does not fulfil the publisher’s promise that it “contains everything there is to know about mountains; their origin, their structure, their vegetation, their importance in history and literature, and their effect upon man himself.” The portions given over to physical geography are extremely interesting; one learns a lot about heights and depths, mountain sculpturing, climate and geography. There are numbers of useful reference tables.

But the author has not proofread proper names, and he is not a profound mountaineering historian. Among misprints of names one finds Stabler for Stabeler (p. 11), Fulsom for Folsom (p. 59), Bancroft for Barcroft (p. 172), Mourad-Aas for Monrad-Aas (p. 173), Coutlet for Couttet (p. 369), Fall for Hall (p. 387), Zerbrüg- gen for Zurbriggen (p. 402) and Lorch for Lord (p. 427). In the field of climbing history, the mistakes are worse. It has long been known that Kinney and Phillips did not reach the highest point of Mt. Robson (p. 96). The Columbia Icefield is not solely in British Columbia (p. 152). The author has confused Andreas Hofer, of the Tyrol, with Arnold von Winkelried, the Swiss hero of 1386 (p. 207). The summit of the Jungfrau is 1834 ft., not “a few hundred feet,” above the Jungfraujoch (p. 212). The Engadine is a valley, not a range (p. 346). The account of the ascent of the Matterhorn (p. 363) is, as the publisher suggests, “unforgettable”—but largely, as the publisher does not suggest, on account of its inaccuracy. The author has no comprehension of the part taken by Dr. Paccard in the first ascent of Mont Blanc (p. 386). Josias Sim- ler was born in 1530, not in 1672 (p. 417). The latter year was that of Dr. Scheuchzer’s birth.

The illustrations are magnificent, being chiefly from the American Alpine Club’s Sella Collection.

J. M. T.