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Rarest of the Rare SEPTEMBER 2015

The wonderful world of the Harvard Museum of National History

Stepping into the Harvard Museum of Natural History is akin to stepping into a freezeframe of nature itself, caught mid-bite, mid-leap, mid-pounce. A treasure trove of wonders from the far reaches of nature, captured from jungles, hunted from the skies; traded and bartered for by explorers as fascinating as the specimens they bore home; scientists and madmen who reached into the chaos of the natural world and catalogued it, studied it, and left us a legacy that only grows. For the museum is not a relic – a snapshot of a golden age long gone, something nostalgic and static – but a vital building block in modern biology. As Edward O. Wilson states in the Foreword to The Rarest of the Rare, our newly republished survey of the museum’s collections, more than 85% of species on the Earth are yet to be described. Our world may be shrinking, but in its hidden corners lurk creatures, plants and organisms that we risk losing forever – before we even know that they exist. 
Reissued by popular demand, and in paperback for the first time, The Rarest of the Rare thrums with the energy that built the Museum of Natural History. Beautiful illustrations pick out the highlights of the collection – from the fragile filigree of boa constrictor bones to the weight of a rare Elephant Bird Egg; Tasmanian tigers (now lost forever) prowling in glass cabinets; Darwin’s trophies from his famous trip on the Beagle; and many more. Woven in amongst the detailed descriptions of the exhibits are the stories of those who found them; the explorers who made the museum possible.