Welcome to the second edition of a spider magnum opus!
This is an impressive work, coming in at just under 500 pages of highly informative text, with a sensational collection of photographs, unparalleled in any prior work on arachnids. It is called a field guide, and is all of that, but goes much beyond the parameters of a conventional guide aimed only at field ID.
The first 135 pages provide detailed notes on every salient spider fact - anatomy, life style, habitat, classification, appearance, frequency, conservation, and so on, before a page of species identification appears.
I remember well, in times past, experiencing frustration at being unable to narrow down the identification of a spider to the species level, feeling somehow inadequate. I was relieved when I learned that I was doing well to get the family correct and extraordinarily well to pinpoint the genus. Many, many species, the majority in fact, may only be identified under a microscope by detailed examination of the genitalia. This point is made abundantly clear right from the outset, in the first page of the introduction.
All of the preliminary information pertains to spiders the world over. The book is nominally devoted to the arachnids of Britain, but spiders with eight eyes in a row, for example, are anatomically the same whether in Britain, France or the Middle East, and you will benefit from a through study of the text.
An excellent glossary occupies six pages and is of immense help in explaining technical terms, many of which are probably unfamiliar to any but a skilled entomologist specializing in spiders.
When the book does get into the individual species section, the wealth of information and the photographs are comprehensive and stunning. A range map is included and notes on distribution/status. By carefully following tips on habitat and a description of the spider, chances for correct identification are measurably improved.
Important information is given concerning legislation and conservation, and a complete summary of all British spiders is provided with their status designation. Links to further reading and useful internet sites enable the reader to pursue other sources to expand their spider knowledge.
The role of the British Arachnology Society is acknowledged; indeed their logo appears on the bottom right corner of the front cover.
In the realm of texts about invertebrates, this book rises to a whole new level, combining science and field identification in ways made possible by digital photography, sophisticated scientific equipment, and the combined breadth of knowledge of three notable authors.
Britain's Spiders, A field guide - Princeton University Press (WILDGuides)
Authors: Lawrence Bee, Geoff Oxford and Helen Smith
Paperback - US$32.50 - £25 - ISBN 9780691204741
Published: 3 November 2020
496 pages - 700+ colour photographs - 5.88" x 8.25"