Encounters with the Archdruid


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MCPHEE, John. Encounters with the Archdruid. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, (1971). Octavo, original brown cloth, original dust jacket.

First edition of McPhee's engaging portrayal of four leading and often opposing voices on "the intricacy of environmental controversies," a distinctive presentation/association copy inscribed and signed by McPhee on the title page, "For Congressman Robert E. Jones with the compliments of Hibben Ziesing via John McPhee 8/25/71," accompanied by laid-in typed covering letter on Ziesing's letterhead that is addressed on behalf of McPhee to Congressman Jones of Alabama, citing a Wall Street Journal review that praised the book for its "particular value on environmental, ecological questions."

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist McPhee "is renowned not only for his quiet and impeccable prose, but also for his range… Arguably his most important book is Encounters with the Archdruid" (McKibben, American Earth, 493). He writes of four men: environmentalist David Brower of the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth; real estate and resort developer Charles Fraser; Floyd Dominy, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation under four presidents who is best known for construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, and Charles Park, the mineral engineer and economic geologist who was Dean of the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford. McPhee skillfully uses his portrayals of their often opposing views "to voice the intricacy of environmental controversies… With the reverence for complexity, McPhee invites creative readers to assess the relationship of Brower, his rivals and themselves, to the environment through a critical yet empathetic lens" (Encyclopedia of the Environment, 216). "The importance of this lively book… is in its confrontation between remarkable men who hold great differences of opinion with integrity on all sides… showing them clashing in concrete situations where factors are complex and decisions hard" (Wall Street Journal).

This presentation/association copy, signed by McPhee in the year of publication, is accompanied by a covering letter on the letterhead of Hibben Ziesing, an industrial chemist who was, like McPhee, a graduate of Princeton University. The typed letter is addressed to the book's recipient, Congressman Robert E. Jones, Jr., who represented Alabama in the House of Representatives from 1947-1977, where he "coauthored the Interstate Highway Act of 1956… Jones sponsored both the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 and the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965 to boost rural economic activity. He also was concerned about water quality and sponsored the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 and served as the vice chairman of the National Commission on Water Quality in 1976. Jones served as the chair of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee from 1976 to 1977" (Encyclopedia of Alabama). The letter is dated August 26, 1971, the day after the date of McPhee's inscription in this book, and is addressed to: "The Honorable Robert E. Jones, United States House of Representatives, 2426 Rayburn Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515." The text reads: "Dear Congressman Jones: Edmund Fuller of the Wall Street Journal (August 11th) described John McPhee's book, Encounters with the Archdruid, as 'absorbingly readable, filled with color of personality and scene, often highly funny, and is a book of particular value on environmental, ecological questions.' Hope you enjoy it." The letter is noted as "Dictated by Mr. Ziesing; and signed in his absence." "First printing, 1971" on title page. Earlier serialized in the New Yorker.

Text fresh with traces of paper clip removal to upper edges of several leaves with scant bit of marginalia; small closed tear to rear panel of dust jacket. An about-fine presentation copy with a key association.

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