This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
While, then, from the point of view of desired popularity of my book, the grim greeting of a death's-head upon the frontispiece might be considered as something of a handicap, the author confesses that this attitude is the result of "malice prepense" and deliberation, realizing that he is not offering to the "lay public," for mere intellectual profit, this scientific analysis of certain fungus species. Were this alone the raison d'Ítre or the logical outcome of the work - mere identification of edible and poisonous species - the grewsome symbol which is so conspicuous on two of my pages might have been spared. But when it is remembered that with the selected list of esculent mushrooms herein offered is implied also an invitation and a recommendation to the feast thereof, with the author as the host - that the digestive functions of his confiding friends or guests are to be made the final arbiters of the correctness of his botanical identification - the ban of bane may as well be pronounced at the threshold. Let the too eager epicurean be "scared to death at the outset," on the general principle pro bono publico, and to the conciliation of the author's conscience.
The oft-repeated queries of other correspondents suggest the wisdom of a clearer definition of the limitations of the present work. Several individuals have written in surprise of their discovery of a new toadstool which I "did not include in my pictured magazine list," with accompaniment of more or less inadequate description and somewhat enigmatical sketches, and desiring the name of the species and judgment upon its esculent qualities. Such correspondence is a pleasing tribute to an author, and is herewith gratefully acknowledged as to the past and, with some mental reservations, welcomed as to the future. The number of these communications - occasionally several in a day, and with consequent rapid accumulation - renders it absolutely impossible for a busy man to give them the prompt personal attention which courtesy would dictate. My "mushroom" pigeon-hole, therefore, is still plethoric with the un-honored correspondence of many weeks; and inasmuch as the continual accession more than balances the number of my responses, a fulfilment of my obligations in this direction seems hopeless in contemplation. I would therefore beg the indulgence of such of my friends as have awaited in vain for my reply to their kind communications, even though the future should bring no tidings from me. All of these letters have been received, and are herewith acknowledged: many of them, too, if I may be pardoned what would seem to be a most ungracious comment, for which the "dead-letter" office would have been the more appropriate destination.
I refer to the correspondence "with accompanying specimens," the letter occasionally enclosed in the same box with the said specimens, which, upon its arrival, arouses a protest from the local postal authorities, and calls for a liberal use of disinfectants - a disreputable-looking parcel, which, indeed, would appear more consistently referable to the health-board than to the mycologist. So frequent did this embarrassing episode become that it finally necessitated the establishment of a morgue for the benefit of my mushroom correspondents, or rather for their "specimens," usually accompanied with the queries, "What is the name of this mushroom? Is it edible?" I have been obliged to write to several of my friends that identification of the remains was impossible, that the remnant was more interesting ento-mologically than botanically, and begging that in the future all such similar tokens shall be forwarded in alcohol or packed in ice.
"First impressions are lasting" and "a word to the wise is sufficient." I would surest that corre-spondents hereafter consider the hazard of an introduction under such questionable auspices. Most species of mushrooms are extremely perishable, and their "animal" character, chemically considered, and their tendency to rapid decomposition, render them unfit for transportation for any distance, unless hermetically sealed, or their decay otherwise anticipated.