The Collector by Jack Nisbet

The Collector

Jack Nisbet first told the story of British explorer David Thompson, who mapped the Columbia River, in his acclaimed book Sources of the River, which set the standard for research and narrative biography for the region. Now Nisbet turns his attention to David Douglas, the premier botanical explorer in the Pacific Northwest and throughout other areas of western North America. Douglas's discoveries include hundreds of western plants--most notably t...

Details The Collector

TitleThe Collector
Release DateSep 1st, 2009
PublisherSasquatch Books
GenreBiography, Environment, Nature, Nonfiction, History, Science, Natural History

Reviews The Collector

  • Joanna
    It's an interesting read, especially since I've been to some of the places where David Douglas collected seeds, etc. The writing is reasonably well done, if a bit quaint at times. At first I thought the book must have been written quite a while ago, as the author referred on several occasions, to women who were of "mixed blood." No similar references have yet been made about any of the men in the book. This did not detract sufficiently from the o...
  • Edward
    I had reservations when I started this book. How interesting could a biography of an early 19th century plant collector be? But I found the book fascinating, not for the plant specimens that Douglas carefully collected and sent home to the London Horticultural Society; rather for the adventures that Douglas underwent in the Pacific Northwest, an area that he visited barely twenty years after the Lewis and Clark expedition.I began reading the book...
  • Chrisl
    Added new perspective to Oregon / Pacific Northwest history. Interesting man. Unexpected, in Hawaii ending. In my childhood, David Douglas was the neighbor high school. Wish I had read the book in high school days, too. The Pacific Northwest in the 1820s by canoe, horse, foot ... collecting, and preparing for shipment to Britain.Quote :"VI. Sleeping on Shattered Stones - Summer 1826"During the first week of June, the traders at Fort Colville pack...
  • Nicole
    Botany is not a field that I would ever have said was particularly interesting. I've never been driven to pick up a book on it or study it in more than the cursory way required in elementary school or general biology classes, but this book provides an interesting view of its importance in the establishment of modern science, as well as civilizations quest to place themselves in a knowable and established world. The story itself can be a bit dry a...
  • Nancy
    Many common plants in the Pacific northwest were first described by David Douglas. You can't look out a window here without seeing Douglas fir and Douglas spirea. I've wondered what the area was like when Douglas first came though. This book gives a taste of what Douglas experienced. An entry in his journal about a pack rat attempting to steal his inkstand rang especially true. Unfortunately not all of Douglas's journals survived so the material ...
  • Joel
    Really liked this book. Douglas is a fascinating character and this book brings alive his encounters with NW landscapes, plants and animals and his interactions with the native peoples and early settlers.
  • Deb Rudnick
    The story of David Douglas is definitely a fascinating one. A complex, driven man, an astounding naturalist and adventurer, with a somewhat more open mind to his fellow humans than one might expect from the 1830s. What was incredible to me was to enter the world of the absolutely insane bounty of wildlife and nature Douglas encountered in this time period, when white folks were still small in number, native people were omnipresent (though beginni...
  • Gail Richmond
    Author Nisbet has done an excellent job recounting botanist David Douglas' life and research studies which, given the scientist' s journeys to places in the Pacific Northwest where few white men had travelled, were often harrowing adventures. Based on extensive research in Douglas' journals and letters, little is left to the imagination. I found the reading enthralling for the first 2/3, and then it bogged down. There seemed to be so much scienti...
  • Bob Hole
    Other reviewers have complained that this is merely a retelling of David Douglass' field journals. They seem not to have written field journals themselves.There's much more here. There is a whopping good story about the opening of northwestern North America. It's no high drama, it doesn't need to be. There are few high-stake moments. But the whole tale is, for Douglass, a high-stake moment. Outside of Britain he was never out of some danger, so h...
  • Douglas Dalrymple
    The Collector is a biography of British naturalist and explorer David Douglas who made two significant expeditions to the Pacific Northwest in the 1820s and ‘30s, when the Brits and Americans held joint possession of the territory and no clear boundary had been drawn between Canada and the United States. To the British this was the Columbia District, to the Americans it was the Oregon Country, and Douglas covered it all from the Umpqua River in...
  • Wendy Feltham
    Continuing my reading about the Pacific Northwest, I was attracted to this book, which won an award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. The Douglas Fir, the Douglas Iris, and the Douglas Squirrel are named for David Douglas, along with dozens of other species. He collected and named over 500 new species for the Royal Horticultural Society, bringing many samples back to England to be used in gardens. Douglas was a fascinating man, ...
  • Diane
    The best word I can think of to describe my reaction to The Collector is delight. THe Collector is the story of David Douglas' travels and work, and I am familiar with most of the places in the Pacific Northwest that he visited. I have also begun to learn plants and it was a delight for me to see the plants described by Douglas. An example of what I found fun: Douglas had attended lectures in Scotland with medical students studying botany. On his...
  • Celeste
    Biography of Scottish naturalist David Douglas, written in a rather dry, journalistic style. No editorializing, just a straightforward account of his exciting, but too-short life and his significant contributions to botany. Mostly culled from his surviving journals (sadly his journal of his second trip to the Northwest did not survive) and many letters to his sponsors back in England. The snapshot of the region in the 1820s was just as fascinatin...
  • Sara Van Dyck
    A thorough and informative biography of an important botanist. I rated it only a 3 because Douglas’s work was largely in the Pacific NW and therefore of somewhat regional interest. While understandable, it was disconcerting to be reminded that between collecting specimens and providing food, these early explorers killed an enormous number of wild birds – including a bald eagle for dinner. Nisbet has done an excellent job, touched with dry hum...
  • Holly
    I saw this book on my library's new arrivals shelf by the checkout desk and grabbed it on a whim, figuring I'd probably just flip through it. How wrong I was! It was quite engaging. Amazing all the ordeals he went through and the various personalities that played off of each other, all in the name of plants and science and discovery. Early on you learn that he didn't live to be an old man but you're not certain how old he was when he died so part...
  • Susie
    My 2014 Ladies Summer Reading Tea book from Colleen Shoemaker - 2770 SW Rutland TerrOK - done with this too. In the beginning I really liked this - very interesting portrayal of the times and the use of Indians to paddle the canoes, to trade with... the exploration and life style that was going on during those days... so rugged! Great to have so many local (NW) references and the ground that he covered was amazing. And how he collected so many sp...
  • Steven Howes
    I always thought it would be nice to see what the Northwest was like prior to settlement. After reading this account of David Douglas's travels and other adventures in the 1820's, I now have a fair idea of what things were like. It seems strange to hear about condors in the Columbia Gorge, shooting and eating eagles, curlews, and other birds, and navigating a free-flowing Columbia in canoes. Douglas's primary purpose in visiting the Northwest was...
  • Carolyn
    The subject here is the energetic young Englishman for whom the Douglas fir is named. He traveled in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, and a bit of South America during his trips around the Horn, collecting plants and animals as he went. His travels were during the years about halfway between Lewis & Clark and Darwin. I enjoyed reading about his relationships with the trappers, fur traders, soldiers, and Indians; my eyes glazed over sometimes over t...
  • Carol Wakefield
    I read this in bits and pieces alternating with other books. David douglases collecting expeditions in the western u.s. and Hawaii were interesting enough that i wanted to complete the book but the excerpts from journals and letters the author had to draw upon we're repetitive and a bit dry. Douglases accomplishments were stunning and the hardships he underwent to botanize the area were impressive. as a native of that area of the u.s. I enjoyed r...
  • Carlotta
    David Douglas collected and cataloged Pacific Northwest plants for Britain and he lead an interesting life and died a mysterious death. Unfortunately this big book written by Jack Nisbet does not do David Douglas' life story justice. This book was so poorly written at time I wanted to throw it in the lake [ I was reading it while camping]! I was so frustrated when Nisbet failed to tell me the rest of the story or just left me hanging with unexpla...
  • Jon Bell
    A detailed history of David Douglas's explorations and identifications of the Pacific Northwest. Interesting read for anyone looking to get into some serious details about Douglas's daily life and collections during his time in the great Northwest. Reads a lot like an expanded journal of the collector. Not being familiar with how this scientist's life ended, the end of the book threw me for a huge loop but also added the most unexpected and excit...
  • Kathy
    This might be of interest to you if you are a botanist or horticulturist. Douglas, whom Douglas Fir is named after, certainly contributed hugely to both fields during the early 1800's (1823-1834), but this biography is mostly a paraphrased version of Douglas's journals. Read the original stuff instead. The main thing you would miss is the end-tale, which may be the most interesting part of this book. Douglas wouldn't have been able to write about...
  • Patricia
    Worth buying just for the physical beauty of the book: the cover has texture, the typeface looks nineteenth century. Nisbet did careful, loving research, and his enthusiasm for Douglas shines out in well-crafted sentences. However, the trajectory of book still reads a little too much like "this happened then this." Telling a life is probably hard to do otherwise. The good research arms Nisbet with some wonderful quotations from Douglas. Where Nis...
  • Lyra
    This is one by an author who lives near my old home in north east washington. I wasn't sure what I'd think of it - sometimes history's like this aren't a thrill a minute. But turned out I was totally absorbed by the story of David Douglas (doug fir's namesake), traveling around familiar areas of the pacific northwest in the mid 1800's collecting plants and observing every aspect of natural history.
  • M. Kelly
    I'd call it a must-read for any naturalist in the western US. If I still lived in the Columbia River region I'd love to go to some of David Douglas' collecting sites and compare what I find to what he found. It was also very interesting to read about the early spread of exotic species facilitated by collectors like Douglas (oops). The only problem I had with the book was that I constantly felt like a lazy wimp compared to Douglas.
  • Caty Clifton
    Excellent historical account of the intrepid scot botanist,well researched account of his 10 years of travel, collecting, measuring and recording natural history mainly aimed at collecting interesting plants to send back to his sponsors at the London horticultural society. For northwesterners, our familiar places, plants and creatures first described by the young european. I have seen Brown's peony in the same general locale...hiking in David Dou...
  • Ryan
    Spend any time in the Northwest and one thing you quickly notice is that the name Douglas appears everywhere....from Douglas fir to Douglas squirrel to David Douglas High School. I have long known of the naturalist David Douglas but never knew his story. This is a great book about David Douglas, his adventures in the northwest in the early 1800s, and how he came to discover and name a large portion of the plant and animal species in the northwest...
  • Dan Ward
    If you live in the Northwest, love plants, enjoy history or are interested in exploring new things then this book is for you. Nisbet does a great job of letting you get to know Douglas and his quirks. The book isn't light reading and requires some investment of time to get through but it is worth the effort. For those of us that live in the Northwest and enjoy the majesty of the 'Doug' fir it is great to get to know the man who it is named after....
  • Judy
    This was an entirely readable bio of a Scotsman who came the Northwest to collect specimens and seeds of plants unique to the area for the British Horticultural Society. The man and his experiences trekking through the wilderness in the mid-19th century were fascinating, especially since I read it while driving through these areas in my rental car!
  • Don
    The collector Nisbet is writing about is Davis Douglas, the naturalist who did pioneering biological collecting in the American west, a few years after Lewis & Clark made their famous trek. Nisbet is a collector aw well. He cobbled together letters and a fragments from Douglas's journals to paint a vivid picture of the hardships and tragic death of the collector. Highly recommended.