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Title of the book : Amber, Honey of Fortune & Memory of Life


A) Subject of the book :
This book on amber (fossilized resin of trees) is drawn from information acquired over the last twenty years. It covers as much on our level of understanding of this ancient substance, of up to 230 million years old, as the identification of its inclusions (animal or plant). The preface is written by Dr Jacek SZWEDO, an internationally renowned Polish scientist who has been dedicated to compiling a list of insect species trapped in amber from the World's most important deposits. The foreword is by Joel VALEMBERG, President of the Entomological Society of Northern France.

B) A work which revolutionizes our knowledge of amber :
Amber is the first substance encountered by prehistoric man that he valued. The earliest evidence that we have of a collection by man comes from about 30.000 years ago; the Iron Age deposit of Wroclaw, in Poland produced a total of 1,500 kg of amber from several pits! Amber may have been used as a currency under the reign of Nero, and is still hoarded as a precious substance in many eastern countries. It was in 1624 that the first written record of amber collecting appeared. Since this remote time, most collecting has served only to produce jewels or art; more recent beliefs suggest that amber cleans and purifies the whole body. The "intense radiation" of this stone supposedly acts on the endocrine and digestive systems. The electrostatic properties would then be beneficial against tiredness and depression, restoring a taste for life by giving the courage necessary to overcome the stresses and strains of life. This book, the first French work devoted to amber, revolutionizes our knowledge of this substance. It is an essential buy for all those with an interest in eastern culture and countries, jewels, or even wonders of nature…

C) Presentation, format and quality of the book :
150 gram brilliant paper, photographic cover with two flaps on 350 gram card make this book a work of high quality. The easy-to-use format (17 X 24 cm) was selected with collectors in mind for use at rock fairs; indeed, a chapter of the book covers the identification of fossil inclusions with an invaluable key for recognizing insect species.

D) Its unique character :
In its early chapters, the book "Amber, Honey of Fortune & Memories of Life" examines all that is covered in world literature, (behavior, conservation of the pigmentation of the fossils, reconstructing the ancient weather patterns by studying specific elements in the amber surrounding the insects, etc...) The book illustrates several unique fossils among 300 original photographs. Only the extraordinary rarity of the fossils exceeds the exceptional quality of the images... The rarest inclusions include: 'fire' wasps, protists, shrimp antennae, shells, feathers, skin of mammals, mushrooms, algae, larval fish, grass snake, and even a marine polyp!

E) Original character :
Written to be read in two ways, by the pictures and by the text, the text with the images cover the key topics tackled in the main text. The paragraphs flow together to give a cohesion to the work, (on 600 occasions the main text refers to the images!) The book reads as an adventure novel in which many inquiries are carried out, like police investigations, to discover and understand the "why" and "how"; reports are then written taking account of the answers.

F) Aesthetically pleasing :
The book presents 300 artistically pleasing photographs in a rigorous and very approachable way. The message of discovery and understanding is punctuated by small anecdotes about the insects. The prestigious images (12 full pages) illustrate the strangeness of the fossils: social behaviour, parasitisms, commensalism, diseases, combat, cannibalism, mating, dispersion, putting to death, smotherings, layings, feeding, births, hawkings, escape, emergency evacuations.

G) A useful piece of work :
The book has a new kind of function. The work is useful for all people who are interested in Nature from near or afar and also in amber, and also for collectors insofar as the author provides a simple interpretation of the evidence provided by the fossils. The reader can then understand his fossils more easily by deciphering the extraordinary scenes captured by the small fragment of amber. From this book one discovers the how and why of the amber pieces which are now mostly mounted as jewels!

H) A work intended for everyone :
This book is intended for the general public. All the concepts are presented in such a way as to make them accessible to all and to allow anyone to understand what amber is, including details of the 70 existing varieties. The book does not use an alphabetic glossary of scientific terms as the text is written using commonly understood terms. The difficult taxonomic names of the species are also kept to a bare minimum.

I) Of general interest :
The book is not a simple, exhaustive, alphabetical catalogue of beautiful fossil inclusions, but more a multi-disciplinary study which considers and explores, using simple examples, the many ancient animal/plant interactions. The fundamental topics tackled are intended for consumption by the general public. Theories that have been accepted for a long time are reviewed in the light of our current knowledge and understanding. This work aims to encourage the five target audiences to think and enable them to grasp a subject that interests them:

1 Behaviour and stories of the insects for the children,
2 Concise interpretations illustrated by artistic photographs for a larger audience,
3 Identification key of the inclusions for the collectors,
4 Figuring of unique inclusions for the curators of large collections,
5 General outline and potential for research for the curious naturalists.

J) About the author :
The author, self taught with a passion for insects (ants), discovered amber more than 20 years ago, and from this encounter, a long adventure was born punctuated by popular articles in various reviews. In 1998, he won the international scientific competition conducted by the magazine "La Recherche" (June 96) in which he produced an informed description a piece of amber containing 88 ants. This victory in the first world championship of palaeontology opened doors into the international scientific community through which he accessed new data, but to which he also brought his own observations on the behaviour of animals trapped in amber.

K) Why and how this work was born :
The insects of amber fascinate the author and he wishes to impart to the largest number these well preserved relics of the past. With this in mind, he developed a new photographic technique, making it possible to reveal rare scenes. His photographic work was presented initially in the primary schools, then recognized by the great photographers, and finally the magazine " Le photographe " which published an entire article on his technique in September 2001. A chapter of his book is devoted entirely to this. A specialist in the behavior of the insects, the author presented his photographs during the meeting of the first world conference on amber inclusions (Vitoria-Gasteiz 20 - October 23, 1998), where he found the inspiration to gather together the best of his work.


L) Conclusion :
This book deserves to be read and the many images carefully studied.
To correspond with the author and to have a glimpse of the riches in the book you can consult the following internet site : "Ambre.jaune.free.fr"

To contact the author : GEIRNAERT Eric, Email : eric.ambre.jaune@hotmail.fr

Consulted by :

Dr Neil D. L. Clark
Curator of Palaeontology
Hunterian Museum
University of Glasgow
University Avenue
Glasgow G12 8QQ Ecosse
Contact e-mail: Nclark@museum.gla.ac.uk

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