Friday, April 16, 2010

Looking Forward To: Fur, Fortune and Empire

The future-release book I mentioned in yesterday’s “Blog Modifications” item is called Fur, Fortune and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. The author is Eric Jay Dolin, and the projected release date is this coming July. I have already added Dr. Dolin’s web page to my Links page, but here is the link again: Fur, Fortune and Empire. (Cover art, W.W. Norton.)

As you’ll see there, his previous release was Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America. If his new book does half as well as Leviathan did in the awards category, we truly have something to look forward to. As his site recounts, it was “selected as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007” by several metropolitan newspapers, won two maritime-related history awards, and some others honors.

According to the overview, the book takes a comprehensive look at the American fur trade, starting in the early 1600s and running roughly to the dawn of the Twentieth Century. Dolin is very clear about what the book does not cover: [it] “does not address the American fur trade as it evolved during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, nor does it cover the current highly charged political and ethical debate over animal rights and the propriety or – many would say – the impropriety of wearing fur. ”

Eric followed much the same approach in Leviathan. He provided rigorously-documented detail, spiced with colorful anecdotes and descriptions, but examined the whaling industry in its own pre-Twentieth Century context. For this, he was chastised by some “the glass is half-empty” reviewers. (Most reviewers, by the way, found the book enjoyable and authoritative.)

 The naysayers seemed to feel the book was “incomplete” because he didn’t engage in modern-day finger-wagging about the environmental damage done by the historical industry. How anyone can call a 480-page tome, with 90 illustrations, “incomplete” is a mystery to me. I expect those people will have much the same reaction to Fur Trade in America. This is no lightweight airplane-flight read, by the way: 464 page with (again) 90 illustrations.

There is no doubt that Dr. Dolin could, if he chose to, provide a learned discussion about ecological impacts, the nuances of environmental policy, wildlife and game management, and so on – just check out his biography, and his other publications.

By (my) good fortune, he is scheduled to be at the Museum of the Mountain Man during the 2010 Green River Rendezvous (July 8-11) in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Personal photo.)

The event actually precedes the formal release date, so this will be his first chance to talk about the book. (Eric assures me that the books will be available at that time. However, I'm guessing that a shipment won’t have made it to Pinedale – truly the middle of nowhere – by then.) Anyway, my wife and I are checking our summer schedule to see if we can be there.


  1. Thanks for this great post, Evan. I appreciate your spreading the word about the book. I can assure you, however, that even though Pinedale might be in the vicinity of "the middle of nowhere," copies of my book will arrive there in time to be sold and signed. Although the release date is July 12, books will have already arrived in the warehouse by the end of June, and I will make sure my publisher gets a few boxes to Pinedale in time.

    Thanks again for the post, and I look forward to seeing you in Pinedale, if you can make it.

    Eric Jay Dolin

  2. Hint, hint, hint ...
    I was actually hoping you say there'd be books. (But you never know with publishers.)
    I can't imagine a better chance to hit your core audience. We've run into people from all over the world at rendezvous.
    Fixed an oversight: Embedded a link to the rendezvous in the post.