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Popular Science: Modern bestiary of ancient creatures

“Dear reader, you are holding a book that will be your guide to the depths of bygone ages and that will introduce you to your ancient ancestors ... come and immerse yourself in the reading, for the adventures of the days of yore have not been finished yet!” These words are the opening to a new book written and illustrated by Barbora Müllerová. Her work is extraordinary indeed – it is an illustrated encyclopedia of evolution, about 300 pages full of detailed information.

The author was not satisfied with the popular science offered on the Czech book market. In the bookshops, there are often translations of foreign works with outdated information, while the pictures tend to be of low quality or lacking invention. According to her own words, it encouraged her to write and put together a book that she and her friends would have enjoyed in their childhood. Extinct organisms are depicted here artistically but thoroughly, according to scientific literature and after consultations with experts. Organisms are drawn with their characteristics. A great introduction in the world of paleontology for young readers.

The book

After the introduction, describing the origins of life in detail with regard to the succession of geological periods, readers continue on to chapters discussing the past and present of selected taxonomic groups. The author deliberately concentrates on those groups that are less known than the popular “dinosaurs and mammoths”. She opens our eyes to a great variety of beautiful and remarkable beings, often unheeded in books. For example, the chapter about mollusks and focusing on cephalopods is of great value. The part dealing with anthropoids is worked out with a kind of meticulous care as well.

The data about the evolution of each group is useful and interesting; it gives readers the possibility to trace the evolution in time up to those species we might encounter today. For example, the chapter about the evolution of birds (including lesser-known groups) is attractive, as is the detailed description of the evolution of mammals, with an important chapter about primates. In conclusion, the author created portraits of important personalities who contributed to the knowledge of the history of life.

The book is a proof that the Czech tradition of popularizing the paleontological tradition did not end with Eduard Štorch, Zdeněk Burian or Jaroslav Panuška, but has continued to thrive.

Professional literature is designated for a relatively small circle of readers; the illustrations do address young readers as well as adults. The book was nominated for the 2019 “Most Beautiful Book of the Year” award (Nejkrásnější kniha roku 2019), held by the Ministry of Culture and the Museum of National Literature.

The texts were written with help of Mgr. Štěpán Pícha and Mgr. Tereza Liepoldová, members of the Faculty of Science.

Roman Figura

Published: Apr 24, 2020 07:45 PM

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