"Nature Into Art-A Treasury of Great Natural History Books," by Handasyde Buchanan (Mayflower Books , beautifully illustrated, 220 pp., 9 by 12 1/2, $25).

Buchanan, the author, was a bookseller for over 40 years and an established authority on old flower and bird books. The aim of this book, he says, is to show a selection of the best illustrations from old natural history books with colored plates, together with an accountof these books and their creators, which represent what might be called thegolden age of the natural history book. wThe vast majority of these books were about birds and flowers.

Dr. Thornton was the author of perhaps the most splendid of all English flower books, popularly known as "The Temple of Flora," but whose real title title is "New Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus." Buchanan says. "The part played by the great Swedish naturalist (1707-78) cannot be underestimated," he says. "He made an enormous contribution to natural history by tabulating a completely new system of classifcation for plants and animals.

"While I was on a holiday in Franceone year, there was a particular garden at which I looked daily, and in which grew a flower I could not identify. However, I could say to myself, there is a colored plate of this in Trew's Hortus Nitidissimus. When I got home I went straight the book, a huge and handsome folio published in Nuremberg in 1750, and there it was - - a kind of balsam! It is an added and legitimate pleasure when looking at a garden to be reminded of Redoute by hydrangeas; of Hooker by rhododendros; of Curtis by auriculas; and of Dr. Thornton if one should chance on the American bog plant.

"Most old natural history books have charm, some are incredibly beautiful. It has always seemed to me -- and to very many collectors too -- that it is in general the flower books which surpass those on other subjects."

"National Parks of the West -- Thenation's finest scenery ... from the Continental Divide to Alaska and Hawaii," by the Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine (Lane PublishingCo., Menlo Park, Calif., beautifully illustrated in fullcolor, 354 pp., $8.95 paperback).

The idea for a national park was first presented before a historic campfire in 1870 by a Montana attorney named Cornelius Iledges, the authors say. He was a member of a famous exploring party known as the Washburn -- Langford -- Doane expedition that surveyed the wonders of Yellowstone with the purpose of puncturing or confirming the incredible rumors that circulated about the thermal spectacles in the area.

After exploring the region for more than a month, on their last night before returning home, the party held a campfire meeting at the junction of three rivers in western Yellowstone. Under the laws of the day, all were entitled to stake claims on the land andits geysers.

As the men were discussing how they would divide this wonderland among themselves. Hedges made a far -- reaching proposal, that they work at preserving the whole area by putting it under government protection. The men enthusiastically endorsed the idea (all but one holdeout). So effective was their presentation to Congress that the necessary legislation was passed only 17 months after the expedition's return, thus creating the first national park.

"To devotees of the national park, itis often things subtler than geysers, fumaroles, and the riven earth that bring them back vacation after vacation," the authors say.

"To the camper, it is the camaraderieof the campfire of the trail; to the fisherman the park is a place where timestands still while he trolls a lake or casts into a rushing stream.

"To families it is a place where the flash of wonder and delight glows in the faces of their children when they first feel a running stream against thier shins, or see a fawn, a theiving jay or chipmunk, or a bear in all his natural majesty.

"To some it is a garden of trees and wildflowers, stones and lichens; an aviary; and a place to watch animals about their daily chores.

"To all, the parks offer the soul-stretching experience of being alone in a world of wideopen space, of grand vistasof forest and mountain and great storms rumbling across the land. The experience is remembered for the tang of fresh mountain air, the blessing of pure silence, the benediction of alpenglow. In short, the parks offer a return to nature, and the renewal that comes from contact with a wild and primitive environment."