book beginnings on Friday: Yellowstone, Land of Wonders by Jules Leclercq; with notes

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.


I am having a difficult time deciding where to “begin” this book, because it opens with not just a foreword or introduction, but:

  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgements
  • Translators’ Introduction
  • Translation and Editorial Method
  • A Note on the Illustrators
  • Preface (by the original author), and…
  • Chapter 1.

All of which is not a problem for me; I read each of these sections happily (most were 2-3 pages); but how to design today’s book beginning? Let’s start with chapter 1:

In 1871 the American geologist Hayden revealed the existence of one of the most phenomenal regions on earth. It was named the “Land of Wonders.”

This quotation comes from an uncorrected advance proof and is subject to change.

As I learned in the copious introductory remarks, this is the first-ever English translation in full of an 1886 publication in French, La Terre des Merveilles, by a renaissance man who spent 10 days in Yellowstone in 1883. It is billed as being remarkable and unique in many ways, and I am looking forward to it.

In the first few pages alone I learned several interesting pieces of trivia, including that Yellowstone is roughly one third the size of Belgium (at least as they both looked in 1886!); that geyser is an Icelandic word; and the definition of the word ‘diadem’ (I was thinking something like jewelry or a tiara, and I was right). And speaking of notes – as I’ve written before, I keep notes while I read: passages I want to quote, words or concepts I want to look up, thoughts I want to include in a review. I have also written before about footnotes; and on this subject I have some observations to make here. For one thing, the endnotes are copious. By the time chapter 2 ended on page 21, I had been cued to reference 47 endnotes. That’s two-and-a-quarter per page! And they are endnotes, meaning they occur at the end of the book rather than throughout; and while some direct the reader to a source for the information given, some make substantive contributions to the text, so that I can’t know to always refer to them or always ignore them; and this makes for a great deal of flipping around. Also, while we’re keeping track, I’ve made only 4 notes myself in those 21 pages (plus 6 pages of notes!), so there you are. This is looking like… are you ready for it?… a noteworthy read.

And what are you reading this weekend?

One Response

  1. Interresting choice – I do like the beginning

    Here’s my Friday Meme Post

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