THE writer of this little book on micro-fungi has been induced to undertake the task of preparing it as a first lesson to the beginner who desires to enter upon the delightful study. What may be called the dry and technical parts of the science have been omitted as far as possible. The varied attractions and endless sources of pleasure which Nature prepares for the student, from month to month, have been presented before him (so far as the writer was able) to tempt him onwards into a field of investigation where his industry cannot well fail of procuring for him a reward of innocent and lasting enjoyment. The writer has felt, as doubtless thousands of others have felt, the difficulty of the study as a beginner, and in the preparation of this book he has been most anxious to do away. as far as possible, with such difficulties, and lead the student on through pleasant pastures to higher and more rugged ground, when other teachers may take the student in hand, and conduct him over the more difficult country, where he will find harder work, but where the pleasure will not be the less.
All those who have made this study their own will at once acknowledge that the teacher then required for the student is Dr. Cooke, whose admirable book, Rust, Smut, Mildew and Mould is so well-known and highly appreciated by the scientific botanist. Under the tutorship of this book the learner may soon make rapid progress in the technical and scientific portions of the subject. A wider field of investigation will be opened before him, and if in his journey over it he now and then comes upon difficult ground, he will not be disheartened, for by this time he will be well able to contend against the impediment, and go on his way rejoicing.Now a few words as to the origin of this little book: it may truly be said to be purely accidental, or the result of unexpected circumstances. When Mr. George E. Davis launched out his useful monthly periodical, The Northern Microscopist, at the beginning of the year 1881, it occurred to me that I should like to take advantage of the periodical, by permission of the editor, and insert a few hints from time to time as to the more easily to be found leaf-fungi in the neighbourhood of Manchester. At first the idea had reference only to the members of the Manchester Microscopical Society. The approbation which these local notes received induced me to enlarge them, and take in a gradually widening radius, until I conceived the notion of making them applicable to the country at large. When my monthly notes for the year were complete, the editor of the Journal, and other students of microscopy, urged me to publish what I had written, in a small volume as a, guide to the young student; and ultimately, after some hesitation, I consented to do so. I have had to make considerable additions and alterations, so as to make the work of general application. The localities of my discoveries, or finds, as they are usually termed, whether local or otherwise, I have thought it well to retain, and I have added others of distant places for the benefit of the general reader. I find the division of the matter into months generally approved, although it is not strictly natural. It has the merit, however, of simplicity, and comes sufficiently near to the limits which nature has established to satisfy the wants of the Younger student. I have therefore retained the monthly division as the best mode of publication. As to the scientific idea, if I had thought it desirable, it would have been an easy matter to have added scientific names and structure, but this I have carefully avoided, as my wish from the first has been to make what I wish to be accepted as the A B C book of microscopic fungi. Had I presumed to take a higher range, the cost of the book must have been greater, and the object I have had in view completely frustrated.
Now a few words as to collecting specimens: This is the first step to be taken, and some of my young friends complainingly say it is most difficult. Doubtless a beginner will frequently look in the most unlikely places, and finding nothing, return home disappointed. A few failures of this kind will generally be valuable lessons, which will indicate the means of success. If he be in earnest, he cannot but succeed sooner or later, and every new discovery will become a step in the ladder upwards. Then he may go on in his hunting expeditions, and it will soon become a strange thing if ever he returns home unrewarded. The reader, in his rambles, should provide himself with a tin vasculum, which he can carry in his pocket, and a book of about the octave size, which he should also be able to carry in a pocket, and thus leave his hands at liberty. With these, and a common strong pocket knife, he will be fully equipped for his ramble. If the weather be doubtful, a waterproof carried over the shoulder by a strap may be found useful. As a general rule it is as well that the microfungi as collected should be at once placed in the vasculum, so as to secure for them a certain amount of moisture until they can be examined at home, or laid out under pressure to dry, as may be desired. In many cases, especially of leaf fungi, it is desirable to select out at once the best specimens, and carefully place them in the book with sufficient pressure to keep them perfectly flat, until you have time to remove them into blotting paper after your return from your ramble. The specimens you desire to retain permanently should be carefully laid out on blotting paper, under moderate pressure, and the paper should be changed every two or three days, for about a fortnight, when they can hardly fail of being perfectly dry. They are then ready for mounting as opaque objects. In my own herbarium I have books of such objects. The size of the book is a small octavo, one volume being filled with clustercups. These are numbered after Dr. Cook's handbook, and I would recommend the student to adopt the same system. In all my gatherings I have found great advantage in the plan. If the student desires to examine a puccinia, or any other smut which he may find, let him first place a drop of clean water on the centre of a glass slide, and then with the point of a knife or a needle take a small portion of the smut, and place it in the water, covering it with thin glass. If the object be then placed under the lens of the microscope, he will at once be able to see its structure. Should he desire to mount the smut as a permanent object, let him remove the thin cover, and allow the drop of water with the object in it to dry, when it will adhere to the glass, and may then be mounted in Balsam Damar, or any other media, at the discretion of the student. When the object will allow of being mounted in balsam without injury, I prefer to use it, but in delicate vegetable tissues, I find it necessary to use other transparent fluids. This subject of mounting is, however, too long for me to enter upon it here. Fortunately there are cheap pamphlets upon the subject within the reach of the student, and to them I must refer him.
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