Russia, Mushrooms & History Wasson on CD-ROM for Sale on Ebay

John Jones rmharris10 at
Tue Dec 3 04:29:39 EST 2002

The following review is from "Notes from Underground" - by David Rose:
Mushrooms, Russia and History," a column that originally appeared in
the Summer 1998 issue of Spores Illustrated, the newsletter of the
Connecticut-Westchester Mycological Association (COMA).

"Many have discussed Wasson's predilection to publish his works in
very expensive limited editions. Their beauty and craftsmanship may
yet delight a bibliophile who can afford $2000 today for an edition
of, say, "Mushrooms. Russia. and History." But try finding a copy. Its
original price tag of $125 in 1957 was "staggering," as Wasson himself
admitted. Even his admirers have lamented that libraries holding his
books tend to keep them "in the stacks" or in rare book collections,
available only by special request. On publishing MRH Wasson initially
attempted to deflect such criticism by citing his simultaneous
publication of a Life magazine article (13 May 1957) intended to
educate the public about his Mexican field trips. But can a single
article correct the extravagance of very limited editions of
exclusively-priced books that are important in the field but become
quickly unavailable as collector's items? . . .

Information buried between the buckram covers of pricey volumes in a
private collection is surely least available to a person wishing to
explore any field of study. But for Wasson to have claimed to be a
committed educator on the strength of one article in a popular
magazine rings hollow. The Life article was not education, it was
advertising. It was advertising for a big, fat book about mushrooms
priced for the friends and colleagues of a wealthy banker turned
mycologist. Ironically, it was also an important source for the
popularization of psychedelic drugs in a youth counter-culture that
Wasson repudiated, being totally averse to assume any responsibility
for his role in inspiring the youthful search for personal liberation,
psychedelic illumination, or - fun!. . .

Let me say that any serious amateur mycologist will be rewarded by
tracking down this book and reading, if not all, at least some portion
of it. Many mycologists may not be especially taken by ethno-mycology;
still, this may be the one book on the subject to know. Despite the
enormous territory that MRH covers, its major themes are really a
simple few: an exploration of the role of mushrooms in Western
literature, art, and history; an etymological analysis of words
culturally associated with mushrooms; and an account of Wasson's field
trips to Mexico in the 1950s in search of native cultures that use
mushrooms for divinatory and religious purposes. . . . .
Published in 1957, it remains a landmark study of the role of
mushrooms in history and culture and continues to be influential in
certain mycological circles today. R. Gordon Wasson, an investment
banker with the firm of J. P. Morgan, became obsessed with the study
of mushrooms after his wife Valentina educated him about their
importance in Russian culture. Together they spent twenty years
researching and writing this colossal work, thinking first of
publishing a cookbook of Russian mushroom recipes and finally
producing a grand pastiche of literature and lore about mushrooms,
delving into linguistics, ethnography, comparative religion, and

Only 512 copies of this book were made. So I had this CD-ROM made for
me at considerable cost a number of years ago, when I was a psychology
grad-student. I no longer needs it, however, so I'm selling it on Ebay
through an ex-girlfriend. Item # 1973747226

The pages of this 2 volume book appear on this Copy-Protected, Cd-ROM
as black-and-white tifs, which can be read, resized, and manipulated
in many ways by the Alchemy imaging program that's included on the CD.
However, the process that was used to transfer the book to CD rendered
many of the pictures to too dark to reveal the details of the
full-color originals. So, do not bid on this CD if you are primarily
interested in the pictures.

The buyer of this CD implicitly agrees not to reproduce the cd in
whole or significant part in any way!

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