AlanS's picture

New 'Dobson'

This is NOT an advert!

However, F.S. Dobson's "Lichens, An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species" is so basic to lichen identification that the appearance of a new edition, after having been out of print for a few months, is a notable event.

So the 6th edition is out (at least in soft covers, I await the hardback version).

It is much the same as the 5th edition (2005), but names are brought (almost) up to date - they match the recent edition of "The Lichens of Great Britain and Ireland" (the current definitive British lichen flora, 1046 pages, technical, no illustrations other than a few line drawings).

It is still the impressive compilation of short descriptions and thumbnail photographs of a substantial proportion of the British lichen species - if it isn't in Dobson then it's pretty rare or a highly critical species. A number of new species and new photographs have been added.

However ...
don't throw the previous edition away! The photographs in this new edition are not printed well. I get the impression that someone has tried to increase contrast or over-sharpen to compensate for the small size, and for many photographs the results are pretty awful. (This applies primarily to those photographs that were in the previous edition, but this means most of them!)

There has been some correction of errors - Lichenomphalia photographs are correctly named now. But the grossly misleading statement in the key to Physcia that P. adscendens and P. tenella are "rarely fertile" will continue to lead to incorrect claims of the rare P. leptalea (which ironically is now on the cover). The photograph of "Parmeliopsis hyperopta" is still Imshaugia aleurites.

The text has been updated in numerous places - I suspect I see the influence of a keen churchyard lichenologist who has acted as advisor.

I paid £34.99 for the paperback; hardback is about £50 as I recall.

I am glad to have it, even though I have editions 4 and 5. However, I shall continue to carry my battered "field" copy of edition 5 for fieldwork, simply for the better photographs.

These are my first reactions, after having it for a few hours. The obsessive lichenologist will need to have it. Those who are merely interested and are aware of a life beyond lichens, and who have a copy of edition 5, will have to make their own decision.

But those who want to identify lichens and do not have a copy of 'Dobson' at all, well it's available again and essential.

And by the way, the Nordic Lichen Flora, vol. 4 (Parmeliaceae), dealing with a substantial proportion of the foliose genera and related fruticose genera, is just out. As vol. 3 (cyanolichens) is already out of print, anyone interested in this important series should make sure they get a copy. Usnea is included and the account of this difficult genus is excellent!

However ...
the photographs are printed much too dark.

I wonder who will be the first lichenologist author to be convicted of homicide of their printer?




Fenwickfield's picture


Thank's for the information Alan as it help's when books are suggested as I have bought a few in the past only to find that they are rather useless. I only have the two on Lichens, Roger Phillips which is okay for basic stuff and Hans Martin Jahns ferns,mosses ans Lichens of Britain Northern and central Europe.The second one is better but still not good enough I also use your site and Gardener too.I think it is a fascinating subject but I think it will take me years before I become confident in my identifications.I will put this on the top of my Christmas present list in hardback.



miked's picture

Thanks very much for your

Thanks very much for your comments, always helpful to have reviews to help people decide which books are useful.

"homicide of their printer" photographs in some of the ID guides are so critical that it does indeed seem a complete nonsense that they can be printed badly, this is certainly not the only guide with dodgy pictures and there is no excuse.

gardener's picture

Oh bother!

Thanks Alan for the warning that the photographs are poor as that means I'll do the swearing and disappointment now rather than when my copy arrives!

I am so sick of printers messing up the illustrations in books they are responsible for.