by Greg Mayer
Biology of the Reptilia, the 22 volume, 13,800 page, 150+ contributor, magnum opus of the late Carl Gans is now online, thanks to the efforts of the Gans Collections and Charitable Fund, a private foundation run by Carl’s family and colleagues. Carl inaugurated the series in 1969, with the last in 2010, the year after Carl’s death. In the tradition of the great German-language compendia, the series sought to compile all of the scientific knowledge about reptiles. The 22 volumes consist of 9 on morphology, 5 on physiology (including much on physiological ecology), 3 on neurology, 2 on ecology, 2 on development, and a final volume of bibliography. Carl had wanted even more to be included, but the series is a tremendous achievement, a monument to his editorial skill and sagacity, and to the breadth of his knowledge, interests, and influences. It is fabulous to have the full text available online.
An appreciation of Gans and the series is given in the foreword to the final volume by Harry Greene, and the preface by Kraig Adler is also invaluable as an appreciation of the series and its accomplishments. I knew Carl through our association with the Museum of Comparative Zoology, where we both did our doctoral work (Carl completing his in the year I was born!). Volumes in the series were fairly expensive, and I have only 4: one of my favorite volumes in the series, the one above (signed by Carl himself); another favorite, volume 16 on ecology; and two others. I have not been able to get a copy of one of my other favorite volumes, volume 7, on ecology.
The online version provides a convenient table of contents to the full series, and a very useful comprehensive index. Each volume is rendered as a series of single-page-per-pdf files. You can advance or go back a page at a time, or jump to a particular page by entering its number in a box. Searches can be done within pages using control-f. On my computer, the number typed into the box cannot actually be seen (the box is too small– the text of the numerals extends out the upper margin, so only a tiny part of the foot of the number can be seen). I’m not sure if this is browser or computer specific, or something they can fix at the site. The page-by-page pdfs means that it is not possible to download a pdf of an entire article (except by doing it one page at a time). With five different publishers over the years, three of them for-profit, this was probably a necessary compromise to get the full text online. So, the online version will most conveniently be used for onscreen reading.
When Matthew emailed me that the complete text was online, I emailed him back
I didn’t know– this is fabulous! Just last night I was thinking, “Man I wish I had the volume on the squamate skull.”
Well, now I can read the volume on the squamate skull, and it really is fabulous.
h/t Matthew Cobb