The Island of the Colour-Blind
The Island of the Colour-Blind

SACKS, Oliver. The Island of the Colour-Blind.

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With original palm tree drawing and inscription to his 'beloved niece'.

SACKS, Oliver. The Island of the Colour-Blind. London: Picador, 1996.

8vo. Publisher's black boards, spine lettered in silver; in the original pictorial dust-wrapper (not price-clipped); endpaper maps showing the Pacific islands and the state of Pohnpei; pp. [x], xi-xvii, [iii], 3-345 [v]; with several black and white illustrations and maps throughout; author's inscription in blue felt pen to title; minimal bump to bottom edge of upper board; light creasing to head of spine of wrapper; a near-fine copy, with author's inscription.
First edition, inscribed to Sacks's niece in the year of publication: 'For Liz, who gave me the Marvell quote, and much much else - with gratitude, love - and best wishes - Olly. Dec 1/96,' together with a drawing of a palm tree echoing the printed version to verso of previous page. There is an acknowledgement to Elizabeth Chase, to whom the inscription is written, on p. xvi. The Marvell quote itself appears on page 82 in the book: "He hangs in shades the Orange bright,/ Like golden Lamps in a green Night." Elizabeth remembers the moment Sacks' inscribed this book to her, the palm tree drawn with 'an impish and playful flourish'.
The subject of this book focuses on Achromatopsia, or total colour-blindness, with a case study of the tiny island nation of Pinglip - there a whole community exhibited this condition. Sacks was always fascinated by islands, and the forms of life which prospered upon them. The second half of the book is devoted to the mystery of Lytico-Bodig disease in Guam, a condition which was prevalent at the time in which Sacks and his colleague John Steele were visiting. Later, they discovered that there was a correlation between the consumption of bats, which made up a large part of the diet of Chamorro people of the island, and the disease. It was found that the bats had been feeding on Federico nuts, thus concentrating a neurotoxin in their body fat. Decline in consumption of the bats was then linked to a decline in the incidence of the disease.
Sacks was a keen lover of Natural History. He and and his niece Elizabeth visited the Botanical Gardens in New York together, where he would share with her his love of plants. In London, they would also frequently visit the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Science, both when she was a child and later, in adult life.