Whether you are new to the nation’s capital or have lived here all your life, there’s much to learn from Howard Youth’s Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C. (Johns Hopkins Univ., $24.95). An ideal hostess or housewarming gift, this book deserves to be consulted year-round and city-wide; it’s everything the title promises. Starting with a natural history of the region, this information-packed volume proceeds to a comprehensive listing of park networks and forests, with maps and logistical details. Delightful, detailed watercolors by Mark Klingler (themselves complemented by the photographs of Robert Mumford) survey area birds, mammals, invertebrates, trees, flowers, mushrooms, and geological formations. The book particularly emphasizes the contribution of each species to the area’s ecosystem, guiding new and seasoned observers through the breadth of nature resplendent in our city.
As a president of Standard Oil, Henry Folger made millions but borrowed constantly to buy rare books and relics related to Shakespeare. He and his wife Emily, whose Vassar Master’s thesis analyzed Shakespearean texts, lived frugally aside from the odd $50,000 or $35,000 shelled out for quartos or lutes. For the Folgers, Collecting Shakespeare (Johns Hopkins Univ., $29.95) was a passion. Henry began his collection in 1889 with a 1685 Fourth Folio; he spent $107.50. Eventually the couple behind D.C.’s Shakespeare Library acquired 92,000 books; eighty-two of these were First Folios, printed in 1623. But numbers tell only one story; Stephen H. Grant’s chronicle relates many others—as do those First Folios, each with its unique provenance and marginalia. In a plaint familiar to all bibliophiles, Folger lamented not having time to read his books; he pored over more auction catalogs than plays, and until the library was built in 1932, his acquisitions stayed in storage. But the Folgers always intended their collection to serve scholars, and if Henry died before he wrote his own book, his collection--“his gift to the nation”—has been invaluable for thousands of researchers.