The Book of the Mountains, edited by A. C. Spectorsky. 492 pages, 87 pictures, numerous sketches. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. 1955. Price $10.00.
This is a tremendous anthology that often takes the reader more into history, mythology and various specimens of archaic literature than most mountaineers will appreciate. The book was not assembled for mountaineers; it is obviously aimed at the mass market, and in general does a good job in that respect, although some of the dull inclusions are hard to justify on any grounds. For instance, "Journey to the Glacier” is of interest only as an example of what apparently passed for good reporting in the year 1741. The mountain-loving reader may be irritated by reading several pages of Walt Whitman’s notes just to find one sentence that expresses what influence mountains can have. But even such weird expressions as "aficionados of the craft of ski running” do not destroy the pleasure of Arnold Lunn’s beautiful descriptive prose that follows. And the editor has written good introductions to the excerpts, which should help most readers to decide what they might pass over.
Those who take mountaineering seriously are advised to look to the original sources for their background knowledge and guidance. Those who read at random and for pleasure will find rewards in the well known and less well known classics of mountains and their influence on mortals. The pictures and sketches are very good; they alone may justify the price to many.
Lawrence G. Coveney