IA Book of the Week: Ocean Gardens

Each week the Fisher Library highlights an item from one of its many collections available on the Internet Archive. This week, Rachael highlights an interesting item from our Biodiversity Collection.

While it may still be a little too early to begin Spring gardening (at least outdoors anyways) one could always expand their indoor gardening skills to include the aquatic plant life of H. Noel Humphrey’s “Ocean Gardens.” According to the title page, Humphreys also wrote “British Butterflies and their Transformation,” “British Moths and their Transformation,” and “Insect Changes.” In this iteration of natural science, Humphreys writes on how to maintain an aquatic garden; the full title of the book being “Ocean Gardens: The History of the Marine Aquarium and The Best Methods now Adopted for its Establishment and Preservation.” It was published in 1857.

Humphreys begins his publication with a table of contents. Some of the highlights of this book include an introduction, chapters on “The Floor of the Ocean,” “The Aquarium,” “The Vegetation of the Marine Aquarium,” “The Fish and Crustaceans of the Aquarium,” and more. Following the table of contents there is a list of plates where each illustration is listed with the given page number. The introduction to “Ocean Gardens” is rather poetic. The author describes the parallels between nature and art. “To appreciate Nature, as well as Art, the mind requires a special education, without which the eye and the ear perceive but little of the miracles passing before them.” He states that most people who travel to the shore for holidays and leisure are not completely aware of the wonders of nature hidden beneath the waters. According to Humphreys, not everyone has the kind of “sight” required to truly see and appreciate everything that nature has in store. He continues his poetic discussion of nature following the introduction in “Chapter Two: The Floor of the Ocean.”

In Chapter Three, Humphreys begins to explain the care and upkeep of an aquarium. “The successful treatment of aquatic plants and animals, in the confined space of a glass Aquarium, depends entirely upon the discovery that there exists in Nature a self-adjusting balance between the supply of oxygen created in water, with the quantity consumed by aquatic animals.” He explains that certain types of plants are needed in the aquarium to sustain animal life by giving off oxygen.

The remainder of this beautiful guidebook contains important information regarding the balance between plant and animal life in the aquarium. It is noted in a chapter on vegetation adequate plant life is needed to give off enough oxygen to support the fish and other marine animals in the aquarium. He also denotes how placing the tank in near the sun will help the plants give off more oxygen. Once the aquarium is filled with the correct types of vegetation and “rendered as picturesque as possible” it will be ready to have animals introduced. Just be certain that the water has settled for a few days so that it can become oxygen rich and full of life.

-Rachael Fraser, TALint Student