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33 - The Observer's Book of Lichens by K.A. Kershaw & K.L. Alvin

To describe the contents of this book in just a few words I can't do better than to quote from the front flap of the black and white version of the dustwrapper:

"The Study of lichens is a fascinating subject and in this book the authors have sought to provide an introductory volume for the layman, teacher and student, as well as a handy reference book to the subject. The book fully covers the structure and reproduction of lichens together with the methods of collecting and examining. Also included are explanations of technical terms to help the reader. These terms have been gathered into a glossary for easier reference and there is a key to the identification of the genera.

Although priority has been given to the commoner and more conspicuous species, a few rare ones have been added for their outstanding appearance or other particular interests. The book contains 32 full colour and 32 black and white illustrations and is fully indexed."

The original edition was published in 1963 and was then republished in 1966. The book was rewritten in 1977 by Kenneth Alvin and Francis Rose with new illustrations by Clare Dalby. This book is considered to be one of the best nature titles in the Observer's series and is almost certainly the best beginner's guide to Lichen. The 1977 edition sold approximately 60,000 copies.

During the publication history of this book there were three distinctly different dustwrappers. The first edition wrapper which was used between 1963 and 1966 is in the wavy edge design with a picture of coastal rocks and a blown up square to the bottom right corner which shows the lichen in some detail. The final wrapper design used for the 1977 editions is a typical 1970's design with a mainly white background and a colour image to the front panel. The rarest by some way is the wrapper with a black and white image on the front panel. According to the Observer's Book of Observer's Books the black and white jackets were used to re-jacket the last few copies of the 1966 reprint in 1972. I just cannot imagine a new book shop these days holding a book on its shelves for six years, and then have the salesman come around and re-jacket the books, but apparently this is what happened and is why the black and white edition of the wrapper is so rare.

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