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Whale (Reaktion Books - Animal)
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As in the other volumes in this series, much of the book looks at the interface between the animal and human culture. This includes whales in literature (yes, Jonah and Melville's Ishmael). It includes depictions of whales in paintings, and film. It looks at the whale as symbol--leviathan, for example.
The book is full of engaging information. I had no idea that one candlepower is defined as the light from a sperm whale candle one sixth of a pound burning at two grains per hour. I of course knew that whale baleen was used in ladies' garments but had no idea it went as far back as Mary Tudor's time. And this is almost to good to be true: schoolmasters used whips made from whale baleen to discipline their young scholars, hence "whaling" as an expression. Sad for the kids, but interesting for the language.
If you are interested in whales but not in literature, skip the book. If you are interested in whales both as animals and as ideas, buy it and buy it now.
Scholarly, yet very readable!