Whenever I read an article about global climate change, it seems as though the focus is always forward – “what are we going to do?” However as an amateur historian of natural history, my mind tends to work better when asking questions not of the future but of the past.
I opened the just-arrived volume 38, number 24 of the London Review of Books to find Mary Wellesley’s “No looking at my elephant;” which takes Caroline Grigson’s “Menagerie: The History of Exotic Animals in England 1100-1837” as its subject.
Every so often, a report is made through one of the better international news agencies of a large, very public destruction of a cache of elephant ivory. These spectacles are generally intended to draw attention to the illegal trade in the substance, as well as to draw attention to the dwindling number of elephants in the world.
They were special books – you could tell that just from the fact that they were kept in an unique set of shelves all by themselves in my middle school’s library. And of course by their size – they were so large that the set of shelves in which they were kept had a slanted […]