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Distributed for Reaktion Books


One hundred years ago, a beached whale would have been greeted by a mob wielding flensing knives; today, people bring harnesses and boats to help it return to the sea. The whale is one of the most awe-inspiring and intelligent animals in nature, sharing a complex relationship with humans that has radically evolved over the centuries. Joe Roman offers in Whale a fascinating and in-depth look at the cultural and natural history of these majestic aquatic mammals.

From the Biblical prophet Jonah to Moby-Dick to recent discoveries of cetacean songs and culture, Roman examines the whale’s role in history, art, literature, commerce, and science. Whale features vibrant illustrations, ranging from Stone Age carvings to full-color underwater photographs, which vividly bring to life the rich symbolic meanings surrounding the whale. Roman also examines the ecological and evolutionary history of the whale as well as contemporary issues of conservation. Whale is an engaging volume that will appeal to all those interested in the important role that these kings of the ocean have played in human culture.

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240 pages | 25 color plates, 75 halftones | 5 3/8 x 7 1/2 | © 2005


Biological Sciences: Natural History

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"A lively and lovely series. . . . This delightful series gives us animals as both alien and familiar. . . . An exhilarating, often astonishing and sometimes moving series of monographs."

Martin Levin | Globe and Mail

"There’s more to whales than watching them, and anyone who wants to should definitely get a copy of Whale by Joseph Roman. . . . A superb chronicle of the relationship between man and beast over the centuries. A must-buy."

Magazine of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

"Well-written, fascinating. . . . This reader was much satisfied by this tasty book. . . . It certainly belongs in museum bookshops from New Bedford, through Sandefjord, to Grytviken. It could be a more substantive alternative to the cetological trinkets and tee shirts purveyed to modern day whale-watchers as they disembark from their brief encounters with his subjects. If such punters then read it, they might gain a respect and understanding of the variety of attitudes that different nationalities and generations have had towards large whales since they and we first interacted."

Aquatic Mammals Journal

"Whale is a lyrical portrait of the animals that have a special place in the hearts and minds of every sailor."

Twain Braden | Ocean Navigator

Table of Contents

1.  First Surfacing
2.  The Invention of Whaling
3.  The Royal Fish
4.  Raising Whales
5.  A Diving Mammal
6.  Oil and Bone
7.  Floating Factories
8.  Exhaustion and Failure
9.  Save the Whales
10.  Eating the Whale
11.  Flukes
Appendix:  The Greenland Whale Fishery
Photo Acknowledgements

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