THE FORMATION OF VEGETABLE MOULD
ACTION OF WORMS
WITH OBSERVATIONS ON THEIR HABITS
THIRTEENTH THOUSAND WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
LONDON, JOHN MURRAY
BOOK DESCRIPTION: Green cloth boards, original jacket, viii + 298 pp. Thirteenth thousand [sic], 10 plates. F1389, with original dustwrapper. Clearly Freeman didn't see an example with the jacket, as it is not mentioned in his notes.
CONDITION: FINE//VERY GOOD+: Cloth covers are very clean and bright, with just a little sunning to the margins of the spine. Binding tight and firm. No inscriptions. Dustjacket is remarkably good with just one very minor repair to a closed tear near the spine. A rare and excellent example of a John Murray Darwin in its original jacket, with adverts on front and rear covers. Dustwrappers on Murray Darwins in any condition come up for sale very seldom. Indeed dustjackets as early as 1904 are, generally speaking, seldom found in such fresh condition.
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The book on offer here, Vegetable Mould and Worms, is Darwin's last published book and deals with an unusual subject. It is interesting that so many copies were printed during its 1st year (1881). The 5th thousand was issued before the end of 1881, so it appears that this book sold even faster than The Origin of Species itself! This particular issue was the first time that the text figures were reproduced as plates (see example below) and the last time the title was issued by John Murray.
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HABITS OF WORMS.
Nature of the sites inhabited—Can live long under water—Nocturnal—Wander about at night—Often lie close to the mouths of their burrows, and are thus destroyed in large numbers by birds—Structure—Do not possess eyes, but can distinguish between light and darkness—Retreat rapidly when brightly illuminated, not by a reflex action—Power of attention—Sensitive to heat and cold—Completely deaf —Sensitive to vibrations and to touch—Feeble power of smell—Taste—Mental qualities—Nature of food—Omnivorous—Digestion—Leaves before being swallowed, moistened with a fluid of the nature of the pancreatic secretion—Extra-stomachal digestion—Calciferous glands, structure of—Calcareous concretions formed in the anterior pair of glands—The calcareous matter primarily an excretion, but secondarily serves to neutralise the acids generated during the digestive process.
HABITS OF WORMS—continued.
Manner in which worms seize objects—Their power of suction—The instinct of plugging up the mouths of their burrows—Stones piled over the burrows—The advantages thus gained—Intelligence shown by worms in their manner of plugging up their burrows—Various kinds of leaves and other objects thus used—Triangles of paper—Summary of reasons for believing that worms exhibit some intelligence—Means by which they excavate their burrows, by pushing away the earth and swallowing it—Earth also swallowed for the nutritious matter which it contains—Depth to which worms burrow, and the construction of their burrows—Burrows lined with castings, and in the upper part with leaves—The lowest part paved with little stones or seeds—Manner in which the castings are ejected—The collapse of old burrows—Distribution of worms—Tower-like castings in Bengal—Gigantic castings on the Nilgiri Mountains—Castings ejected in all countries . . . . . Page 55-128
THE AMOUNT OF FINE EARTH BROUGHT UP BY WORMS TO THE SURFACE.
Rate at which various objects strewed on the surface of grass-fields are covered up by the castings of worms —The burial of a paved path—The slow subsidence of great stones left on the surface—The number of worms which live within a given space—The weight of earth ejected from a burrow, and from all the burrows within a given space—The thickness of the layer of mould which the castings on a given space would form within a given time if uniformly spread out—The slow rate at which mould can increase to a great thickness—Conclusion
THE PART WHICH WORMS HAVE PLAYED IN THE BURIAL OF ANCIENT BUILDINGS.
The accumulation of rubbish on the sites of great cities independent of the action of worms—The burial of a Roman villa at Abinger—The floors and walls penetrated by worms—Subsidence of a modern pavement—The buried pavement at Beaulieu Abbey —Roman villas at Chedworth and Brading—The remains of the Roman town at Silchester—The nature of the débris by which the remains are covered—The penetration of the tesselated floors and walls by worms—Subsidence of the floors—Thickness of the mould—The old Roman city of Wroxeter—Thickness of the mould—Depth of the foundations of some of the buildings—Conclusion
THE ACTION OF WORMS IN THE DENUDATION OF THE LAND.
Evidence of the amount of denudation which the land has undergone—Sub-aerial denudation—The deposition of dust—Vegetable mould, its dark colour and fine texture largely due to the action of worms—The disintegration of rocks by the humus-acids—Similar acids apparently generated within the bodies of worms—The action of these acids facilitated by the continued movement of the particles of earth—A thick bed of mould checks the disintegration of the underlying soil and rocks—Particles of stone worn or triturated in the gizzards of worms—Swallowed stones serve as millstones—The levigated state of the castings—Fragments of brick in the castings over ancient buildings well rounded. The triturating power of worms not quite insignificant under a geological point of view .
THE DENUDATION OF THE LAND—continued.
Denudation aided by recently ejected castings flowing down inclined grass-covered surfaces—The amount of earth which annually flows downwards—The effect of tropical rain on worm-castings—The finest particles of earth washed completely away from castings—The disintegration of dried castings into pellets, and their rolling down inclined surfaces—The formation of little ledges on hill-sides, in part due to the accumulation of disintegrated castings—Castings blown to leeward over level land—An attempt to estimate the amount thus blown—The degradation of ancient encampments and tumuli—The preservation of the crowns and furrows on land anciently ploughed—The formation and amount of mould over the Chalk formation . .
Summary of the part which worms have played in the history of the world—Their aid in the disintegration of rocks—In the denudation of the land—In the preservation of ancient remains—In the preparation of the soil for the growth of plants—Mental powers of worms—Conclusion
INDEX . . . .
On 23-May-12 at 07:02:27 BST, seller added the following information: