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John Muir: A Reading Bibliography

Compiled and annotated by William F. Kimes and Maymie B. Kimes *

Reviewed by Harold Wood

Second Edition.
Illustrated, Index, Chronology, 179 pages.

(Fresno, CA: Panorama West Books, 1986).
Library of Congress Catalog # 86-060765
ISBN 0-914330-89-6

This masterful book is a complete and fascinating reference of Muir's published work over a period of 120 years, beginning with his first published letter in December 1866 for the Boston Recorder on "The Calypso Borealis" and ending with the entry for The John Muir Papers microform (1986).

Note that this is a reading bibliography. Far more than just a bare list of publications and dates, every entry is annotated with fulfilling descriptions. Many of these annotations contain substantial and illuminating excerpts from Muir's writings. What's more, the compilers include critical commentary on the significance of each publication, and biographical information about Muir related to each publication.

Adding to the pleasure of reading this book are the 25 illustrations. These include many portraits of Muir himself, plus photos of the books (with inscriptions) or publications being referenced.

As you browse through this book, you will find ideas of Muir rarely seen elsewhere, giving new insight into his character. You will learn how Muir's thinking evolved over his life time, and how he rose from humble beginnings to an internationally recognized writer.

The book is arranged in chronological order. Subsequent publications of each text or quotation described are thoroughly identified, enabling researchers to find where Muir originally wrote an idea, frequently many years before it reached book form. As the compilers say, "It is revealing to learn how early some of these much-quoted gems appear in Muir's writing and how often they are used."

This book is unequivocally thorough. The compilers promise: "All of Muir's books, later editions, and reprints, as well as books edited by others but composed essentially of Muir's writing, are fully described as to binding, illustrations, and pages."

Notably, since books and articles about Muir are legion and in themselves could comprise a major work, the compilers have not listed them in this Bibliography. However, there are 19 pages listing and describing various first-person "Reports of Lectures and Interviews." These typically include reports on Muir's lectures published in newspapers of his era, often the day after one of his lectures. This edition further adds "Conversations with John Muir" found in articles and books, with the criteria for selection being that the conversation "reveals something new about Muir's charisma or some facet of his character, some little-known habit of living, his view on a timely subject, or the first known occurrence of an oft-repeated story."

The limited first edition of this book - now highly prized by first-edition collectors and quite expensive on the antiquarian book market - was published in 1977. Any Muir scholar, however, will want to be sure to obtain this second edition and not the first, since it enlarges upon the original by 40 percent. This second edition contains 192 new entries, all integrated into the chronologically arranged main text of the first edition. The index was updated as well to reflect all this new material.

The importance of this Bibliography is underscored by its relation to the The John Muir Papers. In 1981 the University of the Pacific embarked upon a project to publish on microform not only all the John Muir papers deposited at that University, but in addition, those gathered from over 40 institutions around the world. When the The John Muir Papers were published in 1986, all manuscripts identified as published or as precursor works identified in the Bibliography were identified to the Bibliography entry number.

The meticulous research and care of this major work is phenomenal. The Kimes' collected Muir materials for over 50 years, and their research on the bibliography began in earnest in 1967 when the compilers gained access to Jean Hanna Clark's (Muir's grand-daughter) thirteen file drawer of Muir papers, although library research had been started even earlier.

All lovers of John Muir owe a great debt of gratitude to William F. and Maymie B. Kimes for this work. The Kimes Collection has now been turned over to the John Muir National Historic Site where it will serve as the heart of a new education center and library. Contributions for the cataloguing and preservation of the Kimes Collection can now be made to the John Muir Memorial Association.

* Mrs. Kimes used the appellation "Maymie" in this book to reflect her first name's proper pronunciation; however her actual first name was "Mayme."

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