La Montagne. (Published under the direction of Maurice Herzog, with the collaboration of Courthion, Couzy, Escarra, Franco, Grandpierre, Kempf, Languepin, Neltner, Samivel, de Ségogne, Stoupy, Veyret.) Paris: Larousse, 1956. 476 pages; ills.; maps; index. Price 6200 Fr. francs (approx. $18.00).
Pursuing its course in the grand tradition set in the mid-nineteenth century, Librairie Larousse has produced one of the most comprehensive volumes on mountains and mountain environment to reach the public. By its very title, which implies treatment of the subject in its broadest sense, one could only expea collaboration by a carefully selected group of authorities in order to appraise the varied facets which, taken together, present the story of mountains and their impact on the human race. The effort has been well worth-while.
This is not a book to be read; rather, it is an encyclopedia to be consulted. It is a tool for the geographer, the historian, the economist, the physiologist, the artist, the philosopher—and the mountaineer. Compiled by French authors, it is natural that emphasis should be placed upon regions and regional characteristics best known to French observation, experience, and accomplishment. This being the case it is inevitable that the quality of text will suffer as intimacy with the subject declines. The North American consultant will be upset by misspellings of too many of the peaks of our western cordillera, confused by the inaccurate conversion of mountain heights to the metric system, and surprised at distortions of history. But it is our home ranges, perhaps, that will least interest American readers, and in so vast an undertaking, errors of this kind can be excused, if not overlooked.
The value of La Montagne lies not in the dotting of “i’s” but in the assembly within one cover of such a spectrum of information, world-wide in scope and total as concerns the mountain environment. The publishers are to be warmly commended on this volume. The maps are numerous and adequate, the hundreds of photographs well selected and well reproduced, and the twenty-five full-page color plates are so beautiful that the book is worth having for their sake alone.
Walter A. Wood