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Anna Botsford Comstock (1854–1930)

Author of Handbook of Nature Study

44+ Works 2,869 Members 3 Reviews 2 Favorited

About the Author

Works by Anna Botsford Comstock

Handbook of Nature Study (1912) 1,879 copies
Ways of the six-footed (1903) 19 copies
Notes on Fishes (2020) 15 copies
Notes on Insects (2021) 11 copies
Notes on Common Animals (2021) 11 copies
Notes on Trees (2021) 11 copies
Notes on Birds 1 (2021) 10 copies
Notes on Plants and Flowers (2021) 10 copies
Notes on Birds 2 (2021) 9 copies
Trees at Leisure (2010) 3 copies
The pet book (2015) 2 copies
The Plant Notebook (1915) 1 copy

Associated Works


ages 6-18 (11) Ambleside (34) amphibians (10) animals (30) AO (41) AO1 (21) AO2 (19) AO3 (12) AO4 (11) AO5 (14) AO6 (11) biology (18) birds (13) botany (11) Charlotte Mason (31) curriculum (9) education (15) field guide (19) fish (10) flowers (14) homeschool (59) insects (23) mammals (14) natural history (42) nature (195) nature study (241) non-fiction (53) own (13) PB (13) plants (34) reference (60) reptiles (11) science (203) Science & Nature (12) to-read (23) trees (16) weather (10) Year 1 (10) Year 2 (10) Year 8 (9)

Common Knowledge

Date of death
Otto, New York, USA
Places of residence
Ithaca, New York, USA
Cornell University
teacher (show all 7)
Short biography
Anna Botsford was raised on a farm in Otto, New York.  In 1878, she married John Henry Comstock, a noted entomologist.  He got her interested in his work, and she began producing illustrations of insects for his books and textbooks. Appointed to the New York State Committee for the Promotion of Agriculture in 1895, Mrs. Comstock established a course in natural history in Westchester, and taught natural history at Cornell University. She served as editor of the Nature-Study Review.  Her best known work, Handbook of Nature Study (1911) went through two dozen editions, and was translated into 8 languages. She co-wrote several works with her husband including Insect Life (1897) and Ways of the Six-Footed (1903).



I can't resist sharing that I originally procured my copy when I came upon it in a garage sale circa 1990 and decided to acquire it to resell it a profit, since I could immediately detect its quality. When a local bookseller refused to buy it, I was so annoyed I resolved to keep it and read it. I haven't finished it but have become an Anna Comstock devotee, and even visited Cornell as an act of homage to her and founded a group in Tacoma called the Anna Comstock Dinner Club and Literary Union. Anna Comstock was a great-souled person.… (more)
1 vote
jensenmk82 | 2 other reviews | Jan 4, 2013 |
During the severe agricultural depression of 1891, a group of New York charities concerned with the poverty in the neighborhoods assembled a conference devoted to the topic: "What is the matter with the land of New York State that it cannot support its own population?" A strong plea was made for interesting the children of the country in farming as a remedial measure. Committees and Associations were formed. The Director of the Department of Agricultural Education maintained that the "first step" toward agriculture was "Nature Study". The author of this teaching text, Ms Comstock was among those appointed to the Committee for the Promotion of Agriculture. The committee concluded that "such a fundamental movement must be public rather than a private enterprise". Ms Comstock began publishing leaflets in support of the movement, with a syllabus for a Home Nature Study Course. This 1911 text is finally the result of "the whole trend of her activities" changed by her attendance at that conference during that depression, her drafting of the home-study program, and her teaching at Cornell. Ms Comstock provided "questions" to as additional teaching devices. She was the first to encourage ecology classes to go into the field. The Handbook has seen over 25 editions since. I hold the revised 1939 edition, "re-issued" in 1986 with the Foreword by Verne N. Rockcastle.

While most of the animals, plants, and minerals presented are those that would be "familiar" to students in the Northeast, many are so common as to be widespread as well. Every page has photographs and drawings illustrating the subjects. Much has changed since the first publication in 1911. The common elms and chestnuts of her day have disappeared. Few children are "close to" chickens, goats, or even their pets -- nature is largely displaced by electronic devices. However, Nature Study remains -- the clouds, the inter-connected life around an apple orchard, and the weeds persist.

The author exhibits genius and charm. She exemplifies the Nature Study movement, as a philosophy of life informed by science, practical methods, and the curiosity of students which even teachers can acquire. The author's purpose is so "the children of our land learn early to read nature's truths with their own eyes" [xiii b].
… (more)
2 vote
keylawk | 2 other reviews | Mar 17, 2012 |
Wonderful resource for nature study.
1 vote
jamielee | 2 other reviews | Jun 26, 2008 |


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