Science - January 17, 2013

The most beautiful Wageningen text book

The book - sorry, box - is called 'Landscapes of the Netherlands. It is two volumes, totalling 900 pages. It is the Wageningen reference book on our landscapes and how they evolved and have been used. A gargantuan task that was carried out by retirees Toine Jongmans, Rob van den Berg van Saparoea and Meindert van den Berg (ex-TNO) with the help of Marthijn Sonneveld and the renowned teacher Gert Peek (both at Land Dynamics).

Initiator Toine Jongmans explains.
Why this book?
'It has always been my wish to publish my lectures on soil science and geology in book form. I never got round to it. At the end of my career I proposed to the management of the chair group that I should still do it. But I couldn't do it alone. That's why we formed this group.'
It is now six years later. Did it get out of hand?
'Yes, incredibly. To start with we thought: we'll just write that up. But it doesn't work like that. Once you start writing you start reading and checking things. You see new things, you develop new ideas. We had thought we would finish in 2010. We started out as enthusiastic but inexperienced book writers, and that's what you get then.'
The book has over 1000 illustrations. Did that get a bit out of hand too?
'No, we said right from the word go that there should be plenty of illustrations in it, because that works well. Especially colour illustrations. Aerial photos, relief maps, cross-sections. That is also the reason why the book is printed in landscape format, which enables you to put the illustrations close to the text.'
And the price is pretty hefty too. Isn't almost 100 euros a bit steep for a text book?
'With the help of subsidies we could keep it under 100 euros. I believe that WUR students only have to pay 95 euros. That is not so much - less than 45 beers.'
Is it the most beautiful text book at the university?
'Frank Berendse recently published a beautiful book about nature in this country. And Jan den Ouden published one about forestry. This is the next in the series.'
But is it actually a reference book or a text book?
'The aim was to combine the two. But that is not easy. In my own opinion it has turned out more of a reference book which can also serve very well as a text book.'

Landschappen van Nederland. Geologie, Bodem en Landgebruik. Jongmans, Van den Berg, Sonneveld, Peek and Van den Berg van Saparoea. Wageningen Academic Publishers, ISBN 978-908686-213-9, € 99,50.

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